Israeli Pilots Refuse To Fly In Anti-Government Protest


Israeli pilots are at the forefront of an intensifying crisis over the government’s intention to overhaul the country’s legal system. Most of the reservist pilots in the air force’s elite 69th Squadron have refused to report to a training exercise next week, and national airline El Al had to scramble to find a crew willing to fly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Italy for a state visit. Ten former air force chiefs have released an open letter calling on Netanyahu to work out a solution to the crisis. “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.

Reservists form the core of the Israeli military and are therefore essential for the country’s defense. The pilots, like many others in the country, are concerned about provisions of the legal overhaul that would give the government full control over choosing judges and strip the Supreme Court the ability to strike down legislation. The BBC quoted an anonymous pilot as saying the protests signal “that we won’t be prepared to serve a dictatorial regime.” Netanyahu and members of his government have appealed to the pilots to turn up for duty.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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    • Fully right. But we must not close our eyes in front of situations, even in democracies, mainly when there is a strong majority supporting the government, where this one behaves exactly the same way.

  1. Netanyahu has always been the biggest supporter of the Israeli Nation. Now unless Israel’s wokeness has gotten so bad that he is trying desperate steps to stop it, he would not be a Dictator. Of course if he is trying to stop “wokeness” he will be attacked from all sides. Watch for the details in the recipe.

    • Can you define “wokeness” in a way that would lend some kind of logic to your post? When a country’s leader wants to put himself above the court system, how else are you going to describe it than a dictatorship?

      • If “Biden” (insert your favorite subterfuge control system) controlled the courts to make anything you do against them illegal, then wouldn’t defying the court be the only recourse?

  2. Scary, that a bastion of democracy, a refuge for the victims of Adolph Hitler, is now itself being run by a dictator. If this doesn’t serve as “the canary in the cage” warning for democracies around the world, including the US, I don’t know how much more clarity can be added to the situation. Democracy and freedom are not guaranteed. Ya gotta fight for equality and liberty.
    As for “wokeness”, a definition might be “responding to being so frightened by aspects of reality that denial and blaming others is comforting and reassuring”. It’s really hard to be rational when you’re scared. In a very limited context, pilots should know this, as it makes up a large part of pilot training. It ain’t easy to learn to push the yoke in a stall as the earth appears to be rushing up to kill you.

  3. First, just for the record, Netanyahu is the country’s prime minister, not the president.

    Second, Roger, t. while I am not sure what led you to the conclusion that he was Israel’s “biggest supporter” nor what do you define as “woke”, Netanyahu now faces three criminal counts of bribery, cheating and breaking trust as an elected official. Now he and his government tries to take absolute control of the judiciary, including the capacity to appoint judges that are very likely to be the ones that will seat on his expected appeal, if convicted. Please explain to me how selecting your own judges is “””woke”””.

    Secondly, as Bob g. suggested, let’s look at the following list: Germany, Italy, Romania (1930’s), Hungary, Turkey, Russia, were democracies in which elected officials weekend its judiciary after taking power. I will call each a dictatorship. Now Netanyahu and tries to follow the same route. His current a government includes a minister (Smutrich) called for “erasing” a Palestinian village, Refused to have his wife share a hospital room with an Arab woman. The minister of internal security has been convicted 8 times, including for terror (over Palestinians), and stole the emblem of the late Prime Minister Rabin prior to his murder, stating ” we will know how to get to you just as we got to this symbol”. His Government first appointed as finance minister a person who was convicted and served time twice over financial crimes, and that avoided a third time by convincing a judge he will not have another opportunity. After this was rejected by the court, his government passed a law that it is permissible, a law that was struck down by the court, and now they are trying to pass again. The same government is now debating a law that will allow elected officials to accept gifts for legal and health issues.

    Are you still holding on to your “””””woke””” claim? Or to his greatness?

  4. Shalom W.- Excellent post with clear, concise supporting details. These are the kinds of responses that actually support democracy and it’s processes. Best to these pilots and their cause.

  5. I am a conservative Christian. I was born and raised Orthodox Jewish and became a Believer when I was 20, I am now 58. My parents were both Holocaust survivors. Auschwitz. I am a passionate Zionist.

    I only want good things for the Holy Land and God’s Chosen People. I am confident this will be worked out.

    Israel certainly does have issues with the growth of a liberal populace, similar to what the US is dealing with. As a consequence there is a swing of the pendulum to more conservative leadership, again similar to President Trump here in the US.

  6. The IDF should be above politics. What ever side you are on in this issue, these actions by the pilots are not good. Israel is a beacon of democracy in a dangerous and unstable part of the world.

    One of the reasons it exists is because of the strength of the IDF. Netanyahu is playing with the future of Israel if he starts alienating the IDF.

    Changes this momentous should not be done at this speed and without broader consultation. It is time to hit the pause button and everyone take a breath.

    • The IDF should, but the fact they’re getting involved tells you the level of danger.

      Also, Israel is not a bastion of democracy- just ask the 1.2m Israeli Arabs about this. Not to mention the decades of illegal occupation and land grab. There are hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwide that are in agreement with this. If interested just do some research and be enlightened

  7. This is (or says it is) an AVIATION site, not a site in which to discuss international politics. The article is both poorly informed and apparently biased. If one wishes to understand the current political issue in Israel there are many good websites which are good sources. My view is that the issue is being widely misrepresented both here in the US and in Israel. I recommend that anyone who is sincerely interested in the issue start here:

    • This farce of a post links to an ultra-right-wing blog where she claims this is OK because all of the lawyers are lefties.

      Dangerous, disingenuous fascist stuff there, Caroline! Yeah, you’re right, let’s keep this to AVIATION and not post links to fascist bloggers.