Israel’s elite fighter pilots escalate judicial reform protests

Fighter pilots in an elite Israeli Air Force squadron have vowed not to attend training, in an unprecedented protest against the government.

Nearly all of the 40 reservist pilots from 69th Squadron have refused to join a one-day training exercise this week.

It is seen as an unparalleled political move by some of Israel’s most strategically important reservists.

It is also a sign of growing opposition to the ruling nationalist coalition’s plans to overhaul the legal system.

One unnamed pilot told the Ynet news website that the squadron was “signalling that we won’t be prepared to serve a dictatorial regime”.

Meanwhile, the national airline El Al said it had found a crew to fly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife to Italy for a planned state visit this week, following media reports its pilots had refused to fly the couple as part of the protests.

And in a further sign of growing concern among Israel’s military leadership, 10 former Israeli Air Force chiefs published an open letter calling on Mr Netanyahu to “stop and find a solution” to the crisis, given the level of protest among pilots and aircrews.

“We are fearful over the consequences of these processes and the serious and tangible danger posed to the national security of the State of Israel,” the letter said.

It follows an announcement last week by reservists in the elite 8200 intelligence unit, who also said they would not turn up for aspects of their reserve duty.

Israel’s reservists are a key component of its military forces, often carrying out frontline roles, and in the case of the air force, regularly involved in active combat operations.

Over the weekend Mr Netanyahu responded, tweeting a black-and-white picture of his military ID from when was conscripted in 1967.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *