Refusers also to blame - The fine line between dissent and Israel's national security

Opinion: The reservists who decline to serve until judicial reform legislation is frozen need to learn about the concept of contributory negligence, since they are the ones who have turned the nation's security into a political pawn

Amit Segal|
When Israel marks its centenary, a parade of controversial statements in the country's history will take center stage. Alongside the IDF Intelligence Directorate's "low probability of war" doctrine, there will be a resounding, shocking proclamation echoing from them all. The speaker is an enigmatic reservist pilot, known only by the glimpse of his face captured on camera in March this year –"If you don't stop the legislation we won't attack Iran," he declared in a booming voice.
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This statement would have been a source of amusement, were it not for the fact that it pertained to our military and security. One could almost see the Israeli Air Force's astonishment as they grappled with the decline in respect for their pilots as if they had wandered into a movie half an hour after it had begun.
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מטוס קרב של חיל האוויר
מטוס קרב של חיל האוויר
An Israeli Air Force jet takes off
(Photo: Shutterstock)
The ones responsible for diminishing this respect for the Israeli Air Force are the same group relentlessly prosecuting Israel on the international stage. The level of detachment to reality is staggering: On one hand, they cease to defend the country; on the other, they lament the harm to security. On one side, they abandon the cockpit; on the other, they expect applause and accolades.
Indeed, the term "refusal" is not quite fitting to describe the situation. It's not just because it's derogatory; it actually pays a certain compliment to those who've decided to play chicken with the country's security.
Lieut. Col. Eli Geva, who refused to command a division during the 1982 Lebanon War, which he saw as a reckless conflict, was a dissenting voice from the north. Then there's Cpl. Avi Bieber, who abandoned the evacuation of settlers in Gush Katif in 2005, also hailing from the north. Both of them chose to follow their hearts despite the heavy cost of legal proceedings, condemnation and ridicule.
The reservist pilots who decline to serve until the legislation is frozen are not refusers. They don't have any conscience of attacking Syria, training in nighttime flights, or planning high-stakes missions in Lebanon's skies. Their actions strike a blow to the national security consciousness, driven by a desire to alter its course. Astonishingly, they blame the government for compromising security, but if they delved into legal terms – and not just in one-sided seminars organized for themselves on the eve of their mass resignation – they'd learn about the concept of "contributory negligence." They are the ones who have turned the nation's security into a political pawn, no matter the cost.
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מפקד חיל האוויר אלוף תומר בר
מפקד חיל האוויר אלוף תומר בר
Israeli Air Force chief Tomer Bar
(Photo: Gavriel Baharlia)
Ron Scherf, co-founder of "Brothers in Arms" and an officer in the IDF's elite Sayeret Matkal unit, has already declared that if Israel faces an attack he won't stand up and serve. So, perhaps they are correct, and Netanyahu is the one in the wrong.
When Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's government brought Yasser Arafat and his cohorts into the country, with all their history and baggage, Netanyahu was asked in this very newspaper what forms of protest were legitimate in this struggle. His response was clear: "Demonstrations, petitions and parliamentary votes," he said. And what about refusing to serve in the army? "Don't even entertain such ideas," he replied, "it's forbidden to propose actions that could tear the people apart."
So instead of lamenting the decline in their public image, those who refuse to serve might do well to appreciate their good fortune in the leniency they receive from the opposition, various segments of the media, and even the military.
The Israeli Air Force chief, Tomer Bar, urged those who cease their volunteer efforts at the Memorial Day ceremony to remember that: "Courage on the battlefield also includes the courage to express an opinion." He also cautioned: "If the attacks on my personnel continue, it will be difficult to bring them back."
Regarding the officers who have resigned, the words once spoken by former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin about Likud members who had strayed from the path seem fitting: "They come from a good home, but they haven't visited it in a long time."
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