The chief of the Israeli military's Northern Command was ordered to reverse his suspension of an officer in the Alpine commando unit on Sunday, after the unilateral decision was found to not have complied with IDF guidelines.
According to Kan public radio, Maj. Gen. Amir Baram had relieved the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Alpine unit, a Lt. Col. in the reserves, from command of his troops after he declined to be inoculated, but was forced to withdraw the suspension.
While the Israeli military does not require its soldiers to be vaccinated – allowing unvaccinated troops to take PCR tests instead – this August it announced that it would only call up reservists who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 for operations or training.
According to the regulations, reservists reporting for duty have to present proof of immunity when they arrive at the base or undergo a PCR test, however, in the case of senior officers, Baram demanded that they be fully vaccinated while in command.
In a letter to his troops reported by Kan, the unnamed reserve officer stated that “the general insists that all senior commanders should be vaccinated in order to set a personal example” and that his refusal to comply led him to be suspended “until conditions change.”
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The army made a major push to vaccinate its personnel in the months after Israel began its nationwide vaccine drive late last year – opening 22 vaccination centers on bases and mobilizing additional medical personnel to inoculate larger units on site.
According to estimates shared with Haaretz, approximately 85 percent of eligible service-people have been vaccinated.
In a statement, the IDF told Haaretz that it "is committed to maintaining functional continuity and ongoing security at all times” and that in light of the pandemic, it is the responsibility of the army’s personnel to ensure the health of their units "in order to continue to carry out the defense mission at the borders.”
"The operational employment on Mount Hermon is unique and challenging in the winter due to severe weather conditions and the warriors being in overcrowded conditions,” the army said, adding that last winter there had been "widespread infection” among the unit’s members, eroding its operational effectiveness.