Israel judicial reforms: PM Netanyahu urges military chief to contain reservists’ protest

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday (March 19) asked the country’s military’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi on Sunday (March 19) to contain a wave of protest from within the ranks over the government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary. “I expect from the military chief of staff and the heads of the branches of the security services to aggressively combat the refusal to serve. There’s no place for refusal to serve in the public discourse,” Netanyahu said, the news agency Associated Press reported. 

“A state that wishes to exist can’t tolerate such phenomena and we will not tolerate it as well,” he added. The military did not immediately comment on the prime minister’s remarks. 

A group of Israelis describing themselves as reservists in elite military and intelligence units said they would not turn up for some duties from Sunday.

In a letter circulated to local media, 450 protesters describing themselves as volunteer reservists from military special forces and another 200 as volunteer reservist offensive cyber operators, including from the Mossad and Shin Bet intelligence agencies, said they were now refusing call-ups, the news agency Reuters reported. 

“We have no contract with a dictator. We would be happy to volunteer when the democracy is safeguarded,” the letter read. 

Speaking to Kan radio a man describing himself as a military intelligence captain taking part in Sunday’s reservist protest, said that he and other signatories were deemed volunteers in part because their time commitments exceeded normal quotas for reservists.

“We are not calling for refusing orders. We call for a halt to the volunteering,” he said, adding the protest would be suspended in the event of a compulsory wartime call-up, Reuters reported.

Earlier Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi reportedly warned Prime Minister Netanyahu that the reservists’ protest risks harming the military’s capabilities. 

For the last two months, Israelis have been protesting against the government’s planned judicial overhaul. The government has said the overhaul is meant to correct the imbalance that has given the courts too much power and prevented lawmakers from carrying out the voting public’s will.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said the legal changes would be carried out responsibly while protecting the basic rights of all citizens. 

(With inputs from agencies)


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