Air Force Pilot Who Signed Refusal Letter Retracts His Signature

An Israeli Air Force pilot on Wednesday retracted his refusal to take part in operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In a letter sent to Air Force Chief Major General Dan Halutz, reserve pilot Major Gideon Dror wrote that he decided to retract his signature from the refusal letter.

Two of the original 27 signatories have thus far retracted their signatures: Dror and reserve Colonel Ran.

Halutz on Wednesday visited a number of Air Force bases, speaking with air crews about the letter and the public storm it created.

Two non-active pilots on Tuesday added their names to the refusal letter. Major Eshel Hafetz, a former combat and transport pilot and today captain for a civilian airline, and Major Yiftah Astrick, a non-active reservist helicopter pilot, made clear that they are adding their names "both despite and because of the nature of denunciations received by the pilots who signed the petition."

Major Haggai Tamir, a former combat pilot who signed the letter, said Monday that he "is certain that the public is able to digest the conflict that we have drawn out in a more mature manner than similar conflicts in the past."

Two of the active pilots who were initiators of the petition - Captain Yonatan and Captain Alon - are ordered to report for Wednesday meetings with their wing commanders. Both said they remain steadfast in their opinions and are not disturbed by the meetings - the results of which, they said, have been predetermined.

In a response to a debate on the matter held by the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the pilots said that "the very same committee that supports an unethical policy that leads to the killings of innocent citizens on both sides, is today attempting to preach morals to us."

National Union MK Uri Ariel said Tuesday that passengers should boycott El Al flights piloted by airmen who have signed the letter, Army Radio reported.