Reservist Protest Against Israel’s Judicial Overhaul Is Warning, Analysts Say No-shows are not yet significant but could quickly become problematic if the Israel Defense Forces becomes politicized By Maya Margit/The Media Line Israel’s reservist protest against the government’s judicial overhaul is leading some defense analysts to sound the alarm and warn that the IDF could […]
The Media Line: Reservist Protest Against Israel’s Judicial Overhaul Is Warning, Analysts Say
Reservist Protest Against Israel’s Judicial Overhaul Is Warning, Analysts Say
No-shows are not yet significant but could quickly become problematic if the Israel Defense Forces becomes politicized
By Maya Margit/The Media Line
Israel’s reservist protest against the government’s judicial overhaul is leading some defense analysts to sound the alarm and warn that the IDF could become politicized.
Hundreds of reservists, up to 750 so far according to Israeli media, have refused to serve and failed to report for duty in recent days to protest the controversial legislation package. The personnel include members of the military’s Special Forces, Air Force and offensive cyber specialists.
Organizers of the “Brother in Arms” protest on Tuesday cautioned that they are preparing to “escalate the struggle,” as the government continues to rush through the controversial legislation. At a press conference held in the coastal city of Herzliya, leaders of the group warned that the IDF is at risk of disintegration if the bills are passed and that thousands would stop volunteering to serve in the reserves.
Also on Tuesday, Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) issued a first-of-its kind “strategic alert,” citing severe threats to Israel’s national security. The INSS warned that the widespread public outcry against the judicial overhaul, which has resulted in some of largest demonstrations in the country’s history, could seep into the IDF and eventually impact its operational capabilities.
Former Chief Reserves Commander Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Ariel Heimann, a senior researcher at the INSS, told The Media Line that right now the protest represents more of a warning than a significant threat.
“It’s not a big issue, but no one knows about the future,” Heimann said.
Reserve military service is mandatory in Israel; in fact all Israelis under the age of 40 who served in the IDF are eligible to be called for reserve duty although there are several exemptions.
Heimann said that while the vast majority of reservists currently are not taking part in the protest, that could easily change in the near future.
“No one [in the IDF] has faced a problem like the present one before … it’s an issue between the protesters and the government,” he said, adding that if the judicial reforms are passed in their current form and the Supreme Court attempts to strike them down then Israel would find itself in an unprecedented constitutional crisis.
If that happens, Heimann says that the IDF and police force would be in a nightmare scenario of having to decide whether to side with the government or with the judiciary.
“I’m really worried about the future of the army,” he said.
Dr. Dan Schueftan, who heads the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa, told The Media Line that the reservist protesters are unintentionally playing with fire and do not understand the implications of their actions.
“Most of the people who are demonstrating by refusing to serve in the reserves are a problem not because they want to protest or are pilots in this or that unit,” Schueftan explained. “My problem is that they’re protesting within the military unit that they belong to; in other words, they’re not saying ‘I’m a pilot I will not serve.’ They’re saying ‘I come from Squadron 69 and we in this squadron will not serve if a, b and c.’”
“This to me is a major problem,” he continued. “When you organize as a military unit it is no longer a civil protest. I don’t want to politicize the army, so that this squadron is left-wing and the other is right-wing. This is very dangerous.”
Nevertheless, Schueftan does not believe that the protesters are acting with malicious intent.
“I don’t think [they] are real dangers because they don’t know what they’re doing,” he said.
Overall, Schueftan views the mass protests across Israel as a positive indication of its democratic resilience. Indifference, he argues, is the major threat to democracy and not the judicial reforms under discussion.
According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (Likud) reportedly warned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in recent talks that he would “act accordingly” if a compromise on the judicial overhaul is not reached, indicating that he might resign. Gallant told Netanyahu that a growing number of reservists were refusing call-ups to serve.
A group of self-described volunteer reservists on Sunday published a letter that was shared with the media and signed by 450 protesters, which stated that they would “have no contract with a dictator. We would be happy to be volunteer [to serve] when democracy has been safeguarded.” The reservists in question claimed to be from Special Forces units as well as cyber experts from the Mossad and Shin Bet intelligence agencies.
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Tue, May 23, 2023