The Air Force is planning to dismiss from active
service 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
Reserve Pilots to Refuse Liquidations
The group has been discussing
the initiative for more than
three months and members say
that they have been badly torn.
According to sources in the
movement of soldiers who refuse
to serve in the territories,
the group is in the process of
collecting the last signatures
and is waiting for "the right
moment" to issue its announcement.
by Lily Galili - Haaretz 9/19/2003
A group of reserve pilots in the Israel Air Force
is planning to publicly announce their refusal to
participate in attempts to assassinate senior
wanted men in the Palestinian Authority.
The various refusal movements view the pilots'
planned declaration as a big boost for their
cause, due to the special status enjoyed by
pilots in Israeli society, and hope that it
will shake up Israelis in a way that "ordinary" refusals have not. Though one pilot joined the
refusal movement at the start of the intifada,
and though there were a few incidents during
the Lebanon War of pilots refusing to bomb
specific targets, a declaration by an organized
group of pilots would be something new.
The pilots initially considered joining one of
the existing refusal movements, such as Courage
to Refuse - the group of soldiers and officers
who signed a declaration of refusal to serve in
the territories more than 18 months ago.
However, they eventually decided to form an
Since Courage to Refuse was founded, with 50
members, more than 500 soldiers have signed its
letter of refusal. However, the group has
failed in its goal of provoking a public
discourse over the continued occupation of the
territories and Israel Defense Forces actions
there. It is now hoping that the pilots'
declaration will succeed where it has failed.
The signatories, who sent the
letter to Air Force Commander
Dan Halutz, described aerial
activity in the territories as
"illegal and immoral."
Halutz told Haaretz last 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.
The signatories to the letter wrote they would
refuse to take part in aerial attacks on
populated Palestinian areas in the
"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.
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
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
"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,"
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 massive wounding of civilians during the
aerial attack on Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh in
Gaza in June of this year. The idea met with a
great deal of soul-searching inside the IDF.
Although the plans for the letter were reported
on Friday in Haaretz, the signatories gave
exclusive rights for interviews to Channel Two
and Yedioth Ahronoth.
Halutz received the letter only at 6 P.M.
yesterday, after the interview had been
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
© Copyright 2003 Haaretz