The commander of an Israel Defense Forces reserve division told troops their training had to be curtailed for lack of funding due to last summer's social protests. "Because of the demonstrations, they cut the defense budget, and now we can't fire missiles in training," Brig. Gen. (res. ) Aharon Haliva told hundreds of reserve soldiers, according to the web site Israeldefense.com.

The site reported that Haliva, who lives in north Tel Aviv, harshly criticized Tel Aviv residents who participated in the protests in a talk he gave during a preparatory session for reserve combat soldiers at the Elyakim base. He told the reservists he would "replace some of his neighbors," presumably refering to those who took part in the protests.

He asked the reserve soldiers not to leak the conversation, the site said.

In an open letter on his Facebook page, Oren Pasternak, who was one of the leaders of last summer's protests and identifies himself as a lieutenant in the reserves, wrote to Haliva: "Apparently you have forgotten how a country's national security expresses itself. It does not express itself in a quantity of missiles. It does not express itself only in aircraft, tanks or the number of bullets every soldier fires. National security is measured by the quantity and quality of its education, the attitude toward its workers, welfare and health system and the right to housing for every citizen."

An increasing number of reservists were students, members of the middle class who "are in any case collapsing under the burden," Pasternak noted.

"The day may come when those reserve soldiers and commanders you talked to - some from the working, tax-paying middle class, some of the same people you declared you'd like to replace [as your neighbors] - simply won't come and serve," Pasternak wrote Haliva.

The IDF Spokesman's Office said it did not respond to remarks made in closed military forums.

This is not the first time Haliva, considered a skilled and opinionated soldier, has stirred controversy with his remarks. In December 2010, the Maariv daily reported that in a conversation with soldiers from the Paratroop Brigade, which he commanded at the time, Haliva said he "hated" hesder yeshiva military service, in which Orthodox soldiers spend part of their military duty studying in yeshiva, which he noted was shorter than regular service.

Read this article in Hebrew