Israeli reservists reinforce protest against Netanyahu

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The image is striking. Dozens of people dressed in military green T-shirts blocking the entrance to the Kirya, the headquarters of the Israeli armed forces in Tel Aviv. The protesters are mostly army reservists who are opposed to the judicial reform promoted by Beniamin Netanyahu's far-right coalition. Some of them are intertwined with plastic tubes to form a human chain that is more difficult to disarm. The scene is completed with several of them lying on the ground and others chaining themselves to the columns at the entrance, in the midst of a deployment of policemen who, however, do not try to stop the staging.

This was one of the initial postcards of the so-called "day of disruption and resistance" in which, for the second consecutive Tuesday, tens of thousands of Israelis organized protests in rejection of the advance of the law of reasonableness one of the projects that seeks to reduce the power of review of the Supreme Court against government decisions.

“Like many, I realized that the values ​​of democracy clash with the occupation,” says a young reservist

Specifically, the proposal presented by Netanyahu and his partners aims to make it impossible for judges to reverse government measures because they consider them "unreasonable", an action that, for the detractors of the reform, would mean damage to the balance of powers that governs in Israel. in the absence of a constitution.

This controversial initiative, approved in the first instance and in preparation for the two final votes in Parliament, is the one that has revived the protest movement, which had calmed down (although not stopped in
29 weeks) when Netanyahu put a brake on the judicial reform projects at the end of last March to start a dialogue with the opposition.

Protests at the HaShalom train station in Tel Aviv


As on that occasion, at the head of the reactivated social outcry are the reservists of the Israeli forces, many of them agglutinated in the Brothers and Sisters in Arms bloc, who have multiplied the threats not to report to their voluntary service if the Executive continues with its legal changes.

According to an Israeli media count, around 4,000 reservists have signed public letters stating their willingness not to serve. Among them are 400 volunteers from the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit, of which Netanyahu himself was once a part. There are also at least 200 aircraft pilots and navigators, 90 administrative staff, 50 air traffic control operators and 40 drone operators.

“Reservists do not refuse to serve. Those who do it are over 40 years of age, who have already completed their mandatory service and are now volunteers. And they do it because they consider that they cannot serve a government that is putting democracy at risk”, explains a member of Brothers and Sisters in Arms, while participating in a march before the Supreme Court in Jerusalem. Sarai Finkelstein, a young law student, describes the refusal of the volunteers as a "good decision" because "it does not represent a real threat to Israel's security."

TOPSHOT - Demonstrators lift a large banner as they stage a 'day of resistance' to protest the Israeli government's judicial overhaul bill, in Tel Aviv on July 18, 2023. The proposals have divided the nation and triggered one of the biggest protest movements in Israel's history since being unveiled in January by the hard-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Protesters rally on "Day of Resistance"


But neither the Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant, who pointed out yesterday that "we are not allowed to harm" the armed forces "in the name of one political opinion or another" does not agree with her; nor the chief of the General Staff, Herzi Halevi, who warned that the non-presentation of the reservists "harms the security of the State."

But, apart from rejecting the reform, Finkelstein, herself a reservist – although "not in combat" – confesses that she also hesitates to run because "like many Israelis, I realized that the values ​​of democracy clash with the occupation” in the Palestinian territories. "I don't know if I can continue in the name of the security which is actually the security of the occupation.”

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In any case, the demonstrators promise to intensify and diversify the protests, which yesterday also reached the stock market, the headquarters of the main Israeli union, the rabbinical courts and the train stations of several cities. For the next few days, the leaders of the movement have called for a march on foot from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while the Israel Doctors Association will stage a two-hour strike today in non-essential services.

“We are the last line of resistance. Protesting is the last thing we have left because nobody is doing anything to stop the government,” says a young Israeli with Uruguayan parents who immigrated to Israel to flee the last dictatorship. “Now we see this madness. Let's hope that doesn't happen here."

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