Air Force Commander Major General Tomer Bar has set a final date, October 17, for examining pilots’ competence and deciding which of them will continue to serve in the reserves, Channel 13 reported Monday night. The date, in about two weeks, precedes a large exercise taking place at the end of October in Israel with the participation of foreign air forces, most prominently the US Air Force.
On October 17, Maj. Gen. Bar will confer with all his squadron commanders in which they will be required to provide a snapshot of their pilots’ competence and the personnel count. A pilot who will not be on the list as part of the active reserves will risk being dismissed from the force.
There are no independent assessments of the actual scope of the “pilots’ rebellion” that was associated with several petitions, only a few of which were signed, that Israeli mainstream media began to publish in the spring. In general, those pilots, many of whom were no longer on active reserve duty, declared that the government’s judicial reform was leading the country on a path to dictatorship and that they were not willing to fight in the service of a dictator.
The pilots’ protests were linked to similar protests by reservists in other elite units, and the IDF leadership was being accused by politicians and pundits on the right of being too soft on the refuseniks. Meanwhile, more and more news reports suggested some of those elite protesters had been added to the lists without their knowledge, and those who shared the sentiments of the various petitions had no intention of abandoning their posts.
In any event, as the protest movement is losing some of its oomph, especially following the brutal anarchists’ attacks on Jews who were trying to pray in public spaces last Yom Kippur, which turned many secular Israelis away from the “movement,” the IAF appears to be getting a grip on the situation within the corps.
For most of the pilots who weren’t reporting for their regular reserve duty training as a protest, the situation is not simple. It is estimated that they stopped reporting for duty in July, and this significantly impaired their pilot qualification. Now the IAF must figure out what’s the real status of their qualification, and which of them is ready to work on rehabilitating their status.
In a meeting last August of the classified subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, a senior IDF official warned that “our enemies recognize that this time the event is different and real.” He was suggesting that what began as a political clash could end up inflicting tangible damage on the country’s security. Now the Air Force is going to determine just how bad is the situation.