IDF Pilots refusing to serve in territories
- Halutz: Pilots refusing to serve in territories will face law
By Amos Harel
25 September 2003
Air Force Commander Dan Halutz on Thursday issued an order to ground
nine pilots who signed a letter refusing to take part in operations
in the territories.
Altogether 27 reserve pilots signed the letter, details of which
were published last week in Haaretz, but only nine of them still do
active duty with the force.
The signatories, who sent the letter to Air Force Commander Dan
Halutz, described aerial activity in the territories as "illegal and
Halutz told Haaretz on Wednesday night he planned to treat the
signatories "in the same way as the IDF has dealt with refuseniks
until now. This method has proven itself."
The nine pilots will be called to meetings with the heads of their
bases in the coming days and if they do not retract their statement,
they will be dismissed from active service.
Halutz has also ordered the grounding of those pilots who signed the
letter and who serve today as flight instructors at the flight
school at the Hatzerim base in the south of the country. "These are
not the people who should educate the next generation of pilots,"
The signatories to the letter wrote they would refuse to take part
in aerial attacks on populated Palestinian areas in the territories.
"We, both veteran and active pilots, who have served and who still
serve the state of Israel, are opposed to carrying out illegal and
immoral orders to attack, of the type Israel carries out in the
territories," the letter states. "We, for whom the IDF and the air
force are an integral part of our being, refuse to continue to hit
innocent civilians ... The continued occupation is critically
harming the country's security" and moral fiber, it added.
Among the signatories is Brigadier General Yiftah Spector (res.),
who was a squadron leader during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
"We must keep things in the right proportions, we are talking about
only 27 out of thousands of pilots," Halutz told Channel 10 news.
"There is no corps and army more humane and moral than us."
Former president and one-time air force commander Ezer Weizman
attacked the group, saying they lacked "morality," that their act of
publishing a letter was a "disgrace," and that they should "put
their tail between their legs" and get out of the air force "as
quickly as possible."
He likened the call to refuse orders to a "cancer" which had to be
cut out "immediately, before it spreads."
Halutz has ordered an investigation into the legality of wearing
pilots' flightsuits during interviews the pilots gave to Channel Two
last night. Halutz said he believes the uniform can be worn only
during reserve duty. If the interviews were given during reserve
duty, the pilots had to get IDF permission, he noted.
"Uniforms can not be used to put across a political message," he
said. Halutz added that he personally was completely at one with the
deployment of the air force in the territories, saying that a great
deal of consideration was employed.
According to one military source, many of the signatories had
stopped flying some 15 years ago because of their age. Only one
flies an Apache of the type that takes part in targeted
assassinations and one flies an F-16 fighter bomber, used sometimes
for bombing targets in the territories. It is not clear if either of
the two has actually been involved in activity in the territories.
Two others are pilots of Blackhawks, a transport plane, and another
teaches cadets to fly an F-15.
"This is an attempt to inject new blood into a subject that is dead
both from the public and media point of view - refusal. It is not
clear why the pilots did not first speak to their commanders. Their
behavior was not ethical," one senior source said last night.
Halutz last night sent a circular to senior air force commanders
with details of the affair. "Most of the signatories have never
participated in targeted assassinations in the territories. They are
not active fighers or do not serve in squadrons which deal with
that," he said.
Halutz noted that "no order had ever been issued to hit innocent
people. Sometimes we took decisions that were not optimal because we
wanted to avoid hurting innocent civilians."
Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon described the affair as "a political
statement made in army uniforms. This is in no way legitimate," he
The initiative for the letter was formulated over a period of about
three months following the death of a large number of civilians
during the aerial attack on Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh in Gaza last
year. The idea met with a great deal of soul-searching inside the
Captain Yonatan, speaking on behalf of the signatories, said last
night: "We are all loyal citizens of the state of Israel. We have
taken this step after deep thought and much soul-searching. As
officers and pilots, we have been given the heavy responsibility of
operating a most powerful war machine. As people who were educated
with the moral code of the IDF and the state of Israel, we have
decided to ... obey the order that obliges us not to carry out an
order that is blatantly illegal."
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