Israeli Military Chief Responds to Druze Quitting Army Over Nation-state Law: Keep Politics Out

Two Druze officers publicly stated they would leave the military in light of the contentious nation-state law

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, 2015.
Gadi Yampel / IDF Spokesperson's Unit

Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot responded for the first time on Tuesday to an unprecedented protest by Druze commanders over the controversial nation-state law, saying soldiers should leave controversial political matters out of the military.

Two Druze officers said in recent days that they would quit their career service over the passing of the contentious Jewish nation-state law.

In a statement released by the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, Eisenkot asserted that as "the peoples' army whose mandate is to safeguard the security of the people of Israel and winning in war, we are bound to uphold human dignity, regardless of ethnicity, religion and gender. So it has been and so it shall always be."

'When We’re in Uniform They Treat Us Well': Israel's Druze No Longer Feel Like Blood Brothers

Eisenkot concluded his statement by saying: "We have pledged that the joint responsibility and brotherhood of the warriors, with our Druze brothers, Bedouin and the rest of the minorities serving in the IDF, would continue to lead us on our path."

Israel’s controversial nation-state law threatens to tear the IDF apart

Druze spiritual leader, Sheikh Muwafaq Tarif, said after a conversation with Eisenkot Tuesday, that he would like to clarify his position: "I fully agree with the chief of staff's words and want to leave all the controversial political and public issues, including the nation-state law, outside the army. I turn to the Druze officers and soldiers in the regular service: 'Trust us, we will fight for you. We have no argument with the army - you are soldiers and loyal commanders, and I trust you to leave yourselves and the IDF out of the circle of public debate.'"

On Sunday, a Druze company commander posted an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his Facebook page, declaring that he had decided to discontinue his carrer service in the Israeli army and urged Druze leaders to advance toward a cessation of compulsory service for the Druze.

This was followed earlier Monday when a second Druze officer posted on Facebook his intent to leave the IDF.

"Until today I stood in front of the state flag proudly and saluted it. Until today I sang the Hatikvah national anthem because I was certain this was my country and that I'm equal to everyone," wrote Shady Zaidan, a deputy company commander of a combat unit. "But today, today I refused for the first time in my service to salute the flag, I refused for the first time to sing the national anthem."

Noa Shpigel contributed to this report