A storm is raging over the Israel Defense Forces' recent decision to disband its all-Druze Herev Battalion: High-ranking Druze reservists opposed to the move have sent a harshly worded letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which they call on him to intervene. The Druze officers warn that if the decision is not rescinded, they will petition the High Court of Justice and stage demonstrations outside the Kirya base in Tel Aviv.
Herev was formed in 1974 and around 400 Druze soldiers currently serve in the battalion, which is involved primarily in routine security duties along the border with Lebanon. According to the IDF, the decision by Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot came after a poll among Druze soldiers found that 99 percent would rather integrate into the rest of the army than remain in a separate unit.
The move, said an IDF source, follows "a series of consultations, including with the Druze community leaders, who supported the desire to integrate the Druze youth into other combat units in the army."
But a different tune is coming from within the Druze community.
"The chief of staff's decision to disband the Herev Battalion is unacceptable," the Druze officers say in their letter to Netanyahu.
"A vast majority among the Druze community oppose it... We call on all the members of the Druze to unite, to work as one to overturn the miserable decision. One the other hand, we urge respect for individuals from among the community who support the decision to dismantle the battalion."
Some of the officers who signed the letter have also voiced harsh criticism of the defense establishment.
"For many soldiers," said Colonel (res.) Assad Assad, a former Likud Knesset member, "the battalion serves as an incubator in which they can develop in the army. Without the battalion, I would have been a sentry. Its closure would be a deathblow to the Druze soldiers."
And according to Brigadier General (res.) Muada Hasbani, "It's a bad decision both on a tactical level and a strategic one. Instead of solving the problem, it could cause young guys to decide not to enlist."