Israel: division widens as soldiers back Netanyahu and judicial review

Middle East Monitor  /  April 27, 2023

The Israeli occupation army has allowed its soldiers to participate in a demonstration today in support of the judicial amendments that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government wants to push through. The march is the first major demonstration of popular support for the occupation state’s prime minister, who has faced mass protests against the judicial review for more than four months.

According to Israel’s Channel 7 website, the army is allowing “soldiers up to the rank of lieutenant colonel” to take part in the march. Participation is conditional on them not wearing uniform or getting involved in acts of violence. The organizers of the march expect thousands of soldiers to take part.

Netanyahu has wanted to show the popularity of his political decisions within Israel’s security and military institutions. Members of the reserve forces among other troops in important and sensitive units have exerted pressure on the prime minister by taking part in anti-review protests.

According to Israel Defence Forces standing orders, soldiers are prohibited from participating in protests, political activity, public activity and media activity. The decision to allow them to take part in the pro-government demonstration in occupied Jerusalem is exceptional.

There have been open differences aired by some of Netanyahu’s critics within the ranks of his ministers, the police and the IDF. Minister of Security Yoav Gallant, for example, was sacked and then reinstated after warning that the judicial review would lead the occupation state down a slippery slope. Moreover, hundreds of reserve pilots announced last month that they would suspend their voluntary service and would not turn up for training. According to media reports, this would inflict significant harm on the efficiency of the air force.

Despite Netanyahu’s announcement to postpone the approval of the judicial amendments until the summer, the opposition has continued its protests against the far-right coalition government. The postponement, say his critics, is simply a political manoeuvre by the prime minister.