Publish date22 Jul 2023 - 18:26
Story Code : 601119

Israel Air Force reservists threaten to stop volunteering over judicial overhaul

More than 1,000 Israeli Air Force reservists threatened, on Friday, to stop volunteering for service if the government goes ahead with a planned judicial overhaul, a key component of which comes before parliament next week, Reuters reports.
People stage a demonstration against the government
People stage a demonstration against the government's judicial overhaul bill outside the Tel Aviv Art Museum near the Israeli Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Israel on July 19, 2023. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency]
Air Force veterans say reservists who volunteer after completing their mandatory military service make up around half of crews sent on combat sorties.
Proponents of the judicial changes say they would restore balance to the branches of government. Critics say the plans would remove vital checks and balances. The drive has sparked months of unprecedented nationwide protests, bruised the economy and stirred concern among Western allies.
In a letter addressed to lawmakers, the military's Chief of Staff and the Air Force chief, the reservists called for broad agreements on the judicial overhaul and for government to maintain the independence of the judiciary.
"Legislation that allows the government to act in an extremely unreasonable manner will harm the security of the State of Israel, will cause a loss of trust and violate my consent to continue risking my life – and will lead, with deep sorrow and no choice, to a suspension of my volunteer reserve duty," the reservists wrote in the letter.
Reuters could not independently verify the reservists' identities.
Israel's National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, responded to Friday's letter in a tweet, saying that "refusing service was dangerous for the country".
The military spokesperson's office has not formally provided figures for the reservist protests but Chief of Staff, Herzi Halevi, said on Wednesday that the military was working on preserving both its capabilities and unity.
"The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) was founded on the basis of its reserve forces," Halevi said. "The calls for not showing up to reserve service harm the IDF."
Before parliament breaks for summer recess on 30 July, lawmakers are scheduled to vote next week on a bill that would block the Supreme Court from voiding decisions made by the government that it deems "unreasonable".
The seeping of the constitutional crisis into the military has jarred Israelis who long saw the armed forces as an apolitical melting pot for a fractious society. On both sides of the schism, worries have been voiced about war-readiness.
On Monday, Netanyahu pledged to crack down on no-shows for military reserve duty, which he said risked inviting attack by Israel's foes and undermining its democracy.
"The government won't accept insubordination. The government will act against it and will take all necessary steps to ensure our security and our future," Netanyahu told his cabinet.
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