Protesting Judicial Reform, Fighter Jet Pilots of the Israeli Air Force Elite Strike Exercise

Protesting Judicial Reform, Fighter Jet Pilots of the Israeli Air Force Elite Strike Exercise
Fighter Jet Pilots of the Israeli Air Force Elite Strike Exercise

Tel Aviv - The Israeli Air Force's elite fighter jet squadron made headlines in the Jewish state after its pilots announced they were boycotting a routine exercise. The move comes amid growing discontent over the planned judicial reforms of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

Thirty-seven of the 40 reserve pilots serving in the 69th fighter squadron said last Sunday (5/3/2023) that they would boycott the training session on Wednesday (8/3/2023) in solidarity with anti-judicial reform protesters.

The judicial reforms, which sparked massive protests in Israel, would allow the government to control the appointment of judges, including Supreme Court justices, and allow parliament to overturn high court decisions by a simple majority.

On Tuesday evening, the pilots softened their stance and announced they would report to the unit, but only to discuss political developments with their commanders. “We responded to our commander's call and will report to the unit tomorrow for dialogue with the army. We have full confidence in our commanders, and we will continue to serve the Jews and the democratic State of Israel as long as necessary," the protesting pilots said in a statement quoted by Israeli media.

A lieutenant colonel serving in the unit told the Jerusalem Post that, “The pilots will continue to serve Jews and democratic Israel, beyond enemy borders at all times.” However, he said, “They have decided to take a day off from scheduled training to speaks of the alarming process that the country is going through." He added, "Pilots need dialogue on issues that affect them." The Times of Israel reported the protesting pilots only agreed to speak to commanders and still refused to train.

Known as “The Hammers”, the 69th Squadron of the Israeli Air Force is considered one of the most elite air force units. In 2007, the squadron carried out an attack on a Syrian nuclear reactor.

The protests were just the tip of the iceberg, according to Israeli media, which said a growing number of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) units joined the demonstrations for justice reform, with members also threatening to boycott the drills.

On Monday, Netanyahu blasted the reservists' protest, saying it "threatens the very foundation of our existence" and "has no place in our ranks." Meanwhile, some 6,000 IDF reservists signed a petition affirming their commitment to serve and demanding that the army remain independent from politics.

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