Thursday, March 30th | 8 Nisan 5783

March 19, 2023 11:47 am

450 Israeli Army Reservists Refuse to Serve in Protest Against Judicial Reform

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Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new right-wing coalition and its proposed judicial reforms to reduce powers of the Supreme Court, in Tel Aviv, Israel January 21, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ilan Rosenberg

i24 NewsA group of Israeli reservists from military and intelligence units on Sunday published a letter saying they would not turn up for duties in protest against the debated judicial reform.

The letter shared with the Israeli media was signed by 450 protesters, who claim they are volunteer reservists from military special forces, and 200, who describe themselves as reservist offensive cyber operators from the Mossad and Shin Bet intelligence agencies. Neither of the mentioned organizations confirmed this information.

“We have no contract with a dictator. We would be happy to volunteer when democracy is safeguarded,” the letter said.

“We are stopping our volunteer service today, and we will be happy to come back when democracy is saved,” Captain “Aleph”, who can only be identified by his rank and the initial of his first name in Hebrew, told Kan public radio.

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“Aleph,” who serves in the Special Operations Division, called on other volunteer reservists to stop reporting for service “until this coup attempt is over.”

“The difference between serving in Putin’s army and serving in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) will be erased,” he warned.

Unlike most reservists who are called up for duty with a formal order from the military, soldiers in the Special Operations Division and cyber warfare units report more frequently and voluntarily, often out of a situation of danger and urgency, due to the nature of their position.

Separately, nearly 300 Israeli Air Force reserve soldiers and officers, including aircrews, drone operators and air traffic control operators, said they would not report for training this week. In messages sent to their superiors, the reservists said they would devote most of their time in coming days to calling for dialogue on judicial reform and “fighting for democracy.”

Calls by IDF reservists to refuse to serve because of government plans have rattled the military in recent weeks, growing in numbers even as they are condemned by politicians, both opposition and coalition. Earlier this month, the Israeli military chief of staff Herzi Halevi warned that the controversy over judicial reform could lead to more young Israelis refusing to enlist, compromising the effectiveness of the army.

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