Ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet sparred on Tuesday over the military’s handling of reservists protesting against his coalition’s judicial overhaul plan, as concerns mounted for Israel’s war-readiness.
Protest leaders say thousands of reservists have stopped reporting for duty. Among them are hundreds of air force pilots or navigators whose absence from weekly refresher flights means that by next month, they may no longer qualify for combat.
“There is a mutiny within the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and any military deals with insurgents as insurgents should be dealt with,” Dudi Amsalem, a minister in the Justice Ministry told Army Radio.
“In 15, 20, 30 years, this’ll be studied in history books, which will note who the chief of staff was and who the air force chief was,” Amsalem said.
Similar criticisms have been made by other lawmakers in Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition, whose January-launched drive to change the justice system has sparked unprecedented protests and drawn concern from Western allies.
Amsalem’s remarks drew swift rebuke from Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
“If you cannot contain yourselves, then attack me, the defense minister, I am in charge of the chief of staff and air force commander,” he posted on social media platform X.
He later published photos of himself with Air Force Commander Tomer Bar at Ramon air base and a video in which he told pilots that they had his full support.
The seeping of the judicial furor into the conscript military, which Israelis have long viewed as an apolitical melting pot, has exacerbated Israel’s worst political crisis in years.
The military has so far acknowledged a “limited” impact from the reservists’ protest, citing the loss of some veteran instructors from the air force’s flight school.
As Israel faces potential flare-ups with Iran, Lebanon and the Palestinians, Netanyahu on Sunday convened the top brass for consultations.
“Israel faces great challenges and as prime minister, I am working day and night together with the defense minister, chief of staff, senior IDF commanders and the security forces to ensure Israel’s security,” he said on Monday.