Reservists Revolt Against Netanyahu: "Judicial Reform Is The Greatest Threat To Israel's Security" | International

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“Most years I have served under right-wing governments, including in the occupied territories. And I didn't always agree with the mission. But I never thought of not fulfilling it. I had the feeling that there was a responsible government and I understood that what corresponded to me was to pronounce myself at the polls. It's not what's happening now." Roi Gordon is one of the more than 10,000 Israeli army reservists who have launched an unprecedented fight against the government of Benjamin Netanyahu these days by announcing that they will stop wearing the uniform if Parliament approves a key judicial reform law on Monday.

The rest of them are united by the sense of urgency, of having to resort to a drastic measure to "protect Israeli democracy" in the face of the advance of the first great norm of the reform, which would strip the Supreme Court of the power to annul those decisions of the Government, ministers or elected public officials that it considers clearly unreasonable. The Knesset (Parliament) began to analyze it on Sunday and the vote is expected on Monday afternoon, after a debate of about 30 hours.

It separates him, on the other hand, that he has announced it publicly and with his first and last names, as an activist of Ajim Leneshek (Brothers in Arms), an organization of military reservists against the reform whose symbols have been seen for months on stickers and T-shirts in the massive demonstrations against the Executive.

Among the thousands of Israelis gathered this Sunday before the Knesset in a mixture of festive atmosphere and concern, groups of doctors, feminists, victims of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict could be seen... But in a country born at war, militaristic and with compulsory military service considered essential social glue of a Jewish majority full of gaps (center-periphery, religious-secular, originating from Europe or the Arab world), what worries the government these days is not the revolt social, but that of the military.

Demonstration against judicial reform, this Sunday in Jerusalem.AMMAR AWAD (REUTERS)

For this reason, the chief of the General Staff, Herzi Halevi, admitted this Sunday in an open letter that the unit of the Armed Forces "has been damaged" and there are "dangerous cracks". “If we do not have a strong and united Armed Forces, if Israel's best do not serve in the army, we will cease to exist as a state in the region,” he has written. The newspaper's military affairs correspondent israel hayom, Yoav Limor, wrote this Sunday that the number in absentia is actually higher: "Many others have not signed letters, they simply will not show up." Government and reservists also maintain a dialectical struggle: the ministers say that they "refuse to serve"; they, who "stop volunteer”.

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Halevi has struck a sympathetic tone, mindful that in theory Israelis are required to serve a number of days a year in the reserve until they are 39 or 45, but in practice it is a voluntary action. “We greatly appreciate our reservists and they contribute enormously to the security of Israel. To everyone, even those who have made difficult decisions with a heavy heart and signed with a trembling hand that they will not report for duty (…). Criticism of this decision must be expressed with respect, without forgetting everything they have done for the country."

The phrase apparently refers to the attacks of recent days by members of the Government. Netanyahu on Thursday accused "military elements" of trying to "dictate government policy through threats"; His Minister of Education, Yoav Kisch, denounced a million-dollar campaign to promote an "inflated" matter; and the Economy Minister, Nir Barkat, described the rebels as "unworthy of wearing the uniform of the Israel Defense Forces." The president of the government coalition, Ofir Katz, went further, playing on grievances and perceptions of who is elite by stressing that "the vote of a doctor and a pilot is worth the same as that of a supermarket cashier and a factory worker." The mention is not casual: more than 1,100 rebels belong to the Air Force, a prestigious body, key to military superiority in the Middle East and essential for an eventual surprise attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, with which Israel has been threatening for years.

"The Most Important Act"

The hand with which Gordon signed the letter of the collective announcement is, remember, the same one with which he opened the door of the border fence as a soldier to enter Lebanon, in the last years of the occupation of the south of the country (1982-2000). “Everyone lives it in a way. But I felt that signing was the most important act of my service. Today, the biggest threat to Israel's security is judicial reform. I'm not saying there aren't others. But Hamas and Hezbollah, for example, are less,” he points out.

Gordon declares himself "aware of the significance" of his decision and the possible implications, but insists that the reservists have "moved heaven and earth" since the presentation of the reform in January "to avoid reaching this point", even supporting the failed presidential dialogue today, despite criticism.

Isn't it problematic that the army gets involved in political affairs? “We do not impose policies. It is a fight for the essence of Israel as a democratic and liberal state”. In addition, he continues, he no longer feels "sure that the decisions are going to be taken in a balanced way", which "in the operational sphere means that they order you missions in which you cannot believe". And he recalls that the International Tribunal in The Hague could try Israeli soldiers for war crimes if it considers that Israel lacks an independent judicial system to do so. “It is something that is rarely talked about (…). Israel would not take responsibility for what its soldiers do."

DZ, a colonel in the reserve who prefers to give only his initials, says that he has reflected a lot these months on what it means to defend Israel. “It is not only doing it from external threats, but also from internal ones. Many of us feel that now we have to protest and that this is the only weapon we can use (...). If you spend weeks away from your family and put your life at risk, I understand that you have something to say about whether the Government wants to change the situation and make the courts irrelevant.

The soldier assures that he has seen first-hand in his unit the division generated by the reform, and how it affects day-to-day life. “You can feel that it is a sensitive subject and how difficult it is to maintain a sense of unity. And if there is something fundamental in the army, it is just the ability to act as a team.”

He qualifies that if Israel finds itself immersed in "a war in which it is in danger, the people will take their position", but believes that the most immediate danger is faced today by "liberal and democratic Israel". “This is the war we have to fight. Historically, dictatorships have been formed when the army has supported them or has taken a stand. We are being tested on what we want to be ”, he sums up.

Two Netanyahu hospitalizations raise questions about his health

Benjamin Netanyahu, at the weekly meeting of the council of ministers, on the 17th in Jerusalem.
Benjamin Netanyahu, at the weekly meeting of the council of ministers, on the 17th in Jerusalem.Ohad Zwigenberg (Reuters)

A week ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 73, was briefly hospitalized for dehydration after spending several hours in the sun without a hat on the Sea of ​​Galilee, he explained in a reassuring video. "Not a good idea," he joked.

He left with a Holter monitor from the medical center, Sheba, who clarified that he had not suffered any arrhythmia. The information was coordinated by the prime minister's office and made no mention of the report on television channel 12, according to which she had fainted and fallen in his house in Caesarea, north of Tel Aviv.

This morning, after a massive march to Jerusalem against his judicial reform and hours after he began to debate in Parliament, he was admitted again, this time to install a pacemaker. “The holter did beep this afternoon and I have to receive a pacemaker. It has to be tonight. I feel great, but I listen to my doctors, ”she said in another video, in which he appears standing up and dressed in a suit.

The new hospitalization has brought to light previously hidden details. For example, his doctors have admitted that the arrhythmia was detected in him last week. Channel 12 was the first to reveal that a catheter was inserted.

In the early morning video, Netanyahu announced that this Sunday he would join the ongoing parliamentary debate on a key reform law. In the afternoon, however, he issued a statement in which he defined himself as "phenomenal" and noted that he would go to the Knesset on Monday morning for a vote. In addition, he has canceled his trips to Turkey and Cyprus, scheduled for this week.

Netanyahu has not published his annual medical examination since 2016. It is something that prime ministers are obliged to do, but they cannot be forced to do it, because that protocol, from 2010, has not been turned into law.

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