More than 11,000 Israelis in the military reserve said last week they’d resign if the government’s judicial overhaul went ahead. 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 that the vast majority of those who participated in the joint declarations last week have yet to either send in their resignations or formally turn down direct call-ups. Since most reservists only get called up a few times a year, it may be weeks or months before significant numbers are forced to follow through with their threats.
“It’s still too early to say,” said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman. “People still seem to be sleeping on the decision.”
In the meantime, the military is trying to persuade the relatively few who have already withdrawn to change their minds, Colonel Hecht said. “We’re saying to them: ‘We need you, only together can we defend this house,’” Colonel Hecht said.
Still, even the possibility of so many withdrawals has alarmed the military leadership. “If we don’t have a strong and united defense force, if Israel’s best do not serve in the I.D.F., we will no longer be able to exist as a country in the region,” Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the head of the Israel Defense Forces, said in a statement Sunday.
General Halevi made particular reference to reserve Air Force pilots, roughly 500 of whom threatened to withdraw from service last week.
If the pilots follow through, it could swiftly and significantly damage Air Force capacity: Reserve pilots often lead combat missions across the Middle East, since they typically have more experience than most of the professional flying corps.
But on Tuesday, it wasn’t yet clear how many of them would actually step back.
“We can’t really tell,” said Relik Shafir, a former general, fighter pilot, and member of an influential group of retired pilots opposed to the judicial overhaul.
Some pilots may wait to see whether the Supreme Court overrules the new law in the coming weeks, he said. And, he added: “Some of them may chicken out. People are people.”