Israel’s military said on Friday it was examining the impact of a letter sent by air force reservists threatening to stop volunteering for service if the government goes ahead with a planned judicial reform.
Spokesman Daniel Hagari said the army was reviewing the details of the letter, which it said was signed by more than 1,100 reservists, and «will examine the implications accordingly.»
The letter, published in Israeli media without listing the signatories, was the latest sign of opposition within the military to judicial changes pushed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious nationalist coalition.
It seemed to make at least some members of the coalition more determined to go through with the changes.
«Even if we wanted to drop the legislation and stop, we just can’t,» said Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, one of Netanyahu’s far-right associates. «A country that gives in to the threats of the generals will actually be a country governed by a military junta, which is the furthest thing from democracy.»
Air force veterans say reservists who volunteer after completing their mandatory military service make up about half of aircrews sent on combat sorties.
Proponents of the judicial changes say they would restore balance in the branches of government. Critics say they would remove vital checks and balances. The campaign sparked months of unprecedented national protests, battered the economy and raised concerns among Western allies.
In a letter to lawmakers, the military chief of staff and the air force chief, the reservists called for broad agreements on judicial reform and for the government to maintain the independence of the judiciary.
Loss of confidence
“Legislation that allows the government to act in an extremely unreasonable manner will harm the security of the State of Israel, cause a loss of confidence and violate my consent to continue risking my life, and will lead, with deep regret and no choice, to the suspension of my voluntary reserve service,” the reservists wrote.
Reuters could not independently verify the identities of the reservists or whether all of them are still actively serving.
Hagari said the army was monitoring the situation, examining its readiness and conveying the implications to the political leadership.
“Not reporting for reserve duty harms the IDF and the security of the state. In recent days it is evident that the cohesion has been damaged, which will take a long time to repair ”, he said.
Before parliament goes into summer recess on July 30, lawmakers are scheduled to vote next week on a bill that would prevent the Supreme Court from overturning decisions made by the government it deems «unreasonable.»
The leak of the constitutional crisis in the military has shaken Israelis who have long viewed the military as an apolitical crucible for a divided society. On both sides of the schism, concerns have been raised about readiness for war.
On Monday, Netanyahu vowed to crack down on absences for reserve military service, which he said could spark an attack by Israel’s enemies and undermine its democracy.
«The government will not accept insubordination,» Netanyahu told his cabinet.