More than 11,000 Israelis in the military reservists said last week they would resign if the government’s judicial overhaul goes through. But now that the law has been passed, military officials and experts say it will take time to test the sincerity of those warnings.
The military says most of those who took part in joint declarations last week have yet to send in their resignations or have yet to formally reject direct call-ups. Since most reservists only call a few times a year, it could be weeks or months before a significant number are forced to follow through on their threats.
“It’s still too early to tell,” said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman. “People seem to be still sleeping over the decision.”
In the meantime, the military is trying to persuade the relatively few who have already backed down to change their minds, Colonel Hecht said. “We’re telling them: ‘We need you, only together can we protect this house,'” Colonel Hecht said.
Still, the possibility of multiple withdrawals has alarmed the military leadership. “If we don’t have a strong and unified defense force, Israel’s best serving in the IDF, we will no longer be able to exist as a country in the region,” Israel Defense Forces chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said in a statement on Sunday.
General Halevi made specific reference to reserve Air Force pilots, about 500 of whom threatened to withdraw from the service last week.
If the pilots followed suit, it could quickly and significantly damage the air force’s capability: reserve pilots often lead combat operations throughout the Middle East, as they usually have more experience than most professional flying squadrons.
But on Tuesday, it was still unclear how many of them would withdraw.
“We really can’t say,” said Relic Shafir, a former general, fighter pilot and member of an influential group of retired pilots who oppose the judicial overhaul.
Some pilots may wait to see if the Supreme Court overturns the new law in the coming weeks, he said. And, he said: “Some of them can chicken out. People are people.”