Setting the Record Straight about Israelis Refusing Military Service

July 25, 2023 | David M. Weinberg
About the author: David M. Weinberg is a writer and lobbyist on defense, diplomatic, and Jewish affairs, and a former senior advisor to the Tikvah Fund in Israel. He also is a widely published kosher wine enthusiast.

In recent weeks, the Israeli media have run story after story about groups of citizens declaring that they will refuse to show up for reserve duty until the government relents on its plans to reform the Supreme Court. The reservists in question oftentimes belong to especially important IDF units. But, David M. Weinberg explains, the problem is not nearly so widespread or serious as one might think:

First, I suspect that the numbers are fuzzy and exaggerated. In fact, a deeper dive indicates that very many of the purportedly AWOL soldiers are long retired from reserve service of any type. This reality became clear in a rare television news segment on Wednesday night where Yair Pelei, the Golani Brigade’s commander, stripped the refuse-to-serve festival of its factual moorings. Hundreds of Golani reservists are currently participating in a massive training exercise on the Golan Heights. Not a single reserve soldier refused to show up for duty, Pelei said.

Second is the fact that for every refuse-to-serve declaration highlighted by the mainstream . . . media there is an equal if not much greater number of petitions and declarations out there against . . . avowals to refuse to serve.

By my count—and I did my homework in tabulating this—well over 100,000 Israeli active-duty and reserve military personnel are on record as rejecting the calls to refuse to serve. [Last] week, 150 very senior IDF military-intelligence reserve officers published a public call against refusal to serve; a call to leave the IDF out of and beyond political debate; and a call on all military-intelligence personnel to answer with enthusiasm and vigor, as always, all draft calls for reserve duty.

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