Israel reservist doctors threaten to refuse duty if judicial overhaul goes ahead [reserve officers and soldiers too]

Middle East Monitor  /  June 26, 2023

Around 300 Israeli military doctors in reserve units told the Defence Minister on Monday they will refuse to serve if the government pursues disputed legislation that would see the highest court stripped of most of its powers, Reuters reports.

Israeli lawmakers, on Sunday, began debating a bill that would limit the Supreme Court’s powers, rebooting a judicial overhaul instigated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition that has stirred mass protests.

The coalition says its goal is to balance the powers of the government, legislature and judiciary by reining in a Supreme Court they see as too interventionist. Those against the move say it would erode democracy by removing key checks and balances on government powers.

In a letter to the Defence Minister, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, doctors said they could not continue to volunteer for service when the government was “violating the basic contract between us and the state”.

“If there are no gatekeepers and there is no effective judicial review,” the letter said, “we will not be able to trust our commanders when we are sent to military missions.”

“We won’t serve a dictatorship,” it added.

Anti-government demonstrations had prompted Netanyahu to suspend his judicial drive in March to allow compromise talks with opposition parties. He declared those talks fruitless last week and ordered some of the legislation to be revived.

Military reservists said they had continued to report for duty as they were giving time for compromise talks to produce results, but renewed calls to refuse call-ups when the talks broke down.

The proposed changes, which include curbs on the court’s ability to rule against the government, sparked frequent street protests before the March suspension. But they have continued weekly, with anti-overhaul activists blocking a major Tel Aviv highway on Saturday night.

Governing coalition lawmakers have indicated that the new bill will be a far softer version of previous proposals that had sought to almost totally eliminate the Supreme Court’s power to rule against the Executive.

The opposition, however, says the new bill would still open the door to corruption.

The proposed judicial overhaul has also stirred Western concern for Israel’s democratic health and spooked investors. Critics see it as an attempt to curb court independence by Netanyahu, who is on trial on graft charges that he denies.


Israel reserves will stop volunteer service in protest against judicial overhaul

Middle East Monitor  /  June 26, 2023

Dozens of Israeli reserve officers and soldiers yesterday warned that they would stop volunteering for service in protest against the resumption of judicial overhaul measures, Arab48 reported.

This came following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to “go all the way” and unilaterally push through the coalition’s bill to broadly outlaw judicial review of the “reasonableness” of government or ministerial decisions.

Netanyahu made the decision after meeting with Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem, who also serves as a minister within the Justice Ministry, yesterday.

The judicial review will make way for the appointment of ministers regardless of their criminal past , similar to what happened with Shas leader Aryeh Deri, who has previously been sacked by the High Court.

In a statement, the retired soldiers and officers of Unit 8200, the Intelligence Corps unit of the Israeli occupation army, said: “In this way, they reinforce an authoritarian approach.”

The statement added that the resumption of the judicial overhaul plan would lead to migration of minds from Israel.

Meanwhile, the reserve unit of the Special Israeli Army said that the Knesset resumed the “dictatorship legislations,” which, they said, “will end democracy in Israel and allow the government to pass any law or make any appointment.”

The statement also said that “without democracy, there will not be an army or security. This will mark the end of the state of Israel. Therefore, we will forcefully defend democracy with our souls and bodies.”