JERUSALEM: 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 (Mar 19), escalating protests at the hard-right government’s planned judicial overhaul.
Members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, which wields a Knesset majority, say they want Bills that would limit the authority of the Supreme Court to be written into law by Apr 2.
The plan has stirred concern for Israel’s democratic health at home and abroad. As ratification nears, demonstrations have spiralled, the shekel has slipped and fears have been voiced by national security veterans who usually shy from public exposure.
In a letter circulated to the Israeli 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.
Reuters could not verify the signatories’ identities and the secrecy around the units they said they belong to also made it difficult to assess the protest’s potential impact.
“We have no contract with a dictator. We would be happy to volunteer when the democracy is safeguarded,” the letter said.
The military declined comment. Representatives for Mossad and Shin Bet did not immediately respond to queries by Reuters.
Netanyahu calls the judicial overhaul a restoration of balance between the branches of government. Critics see a gambit by the prime minister – who is under trial on corruption charges that he denies – to subordinate the courts to the executive.
On Sunday, a Knesset review committee was due to discuss, before final voting sessions in the plenum, a Bill that would give the coalition more control over appointments to the bench.
That, critics say, could foster corruption and imperil judicial independence key to Israel’s economic strength and defences against attempts to isolate it internationally.