Hundreds of IDF reservists – including 110 air force pilots – yesterday announced a new threat not to serve, should the government pass a law which weakens the power of the judiciary to use the “reasonableness” clause to overrule a law passed by the Knesset.
The NGO Brothers in Arms, made up of reservists and led by some in the elite special forces, called the government’s threat to weaken the “reasonableness” clause “a nuclear bomb on democracy.”
More specifically, the group flagged Communications Minister Shlomo Karai’s implied threat to fire Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara as soon as the responsibility clause restraint would be reduced.
Karai said he and the cabinet would feel unable to fire Baharav-Miara – who has angered the coalition with her support for the prosecution of Netanyahu, for firing Shas Party leader Arye Deri as a minister, and for opposing the powers granted to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir – as long as the High Court of Justice could block her firing by ruling such an action highly unreasonable.
However, unlike three months ago, when Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi were recommending leniency toward protesting reservists and called on Netanyahu to slow his judicial overhaul, this time the two top defense officials seem closer to being in lockstep with the prime minister.
Predictably, Netanyahu, who has led much of the push for the judicial overhaul, of which the reasonableness clause is one smaller part, declared at an IDF officer graduation ceremony on Wednesday: “We are all obligated to show up together in order to defend our country. There is not and will not be any place for refusal – not from this side [of the political spectrum] and not from the other side. We have one state, one military and one home.
“We will guard our home as brothers and sisters, and if a day will arrive when the order is issued, we will rally to the flag, united and determined like a crushing fist,” said the prime minister.
Although in March, this was not Gallant’s message, yesterday Gallant closed ranks with Netanyahu, saying, “We cannot allow anyone to use the IDF as a political campaign weapon to cause harm or as an aspect of incitement by anonymous persons.
“The call for refusal and the threats to stop volunteering undermine the basic values of the IDF as the army of the nation and endanger its readiness,” said Gallant.
The defense minister concluded: “Anyone who calls for refusal is not acting as part of a legitimate protest, since through his call, he is harming the most important thing we have: the security of the State of Israel.”
Halevi also described the duty of IDF officers to carry out any mission assigned to them, including complex ones.The Jerusalem Post has learned that both Gallant and Halevi have shifted on the refusal issue since it last peaked in March. Then they both believed that Netanyahu had pushed the judicial reform too aggressively and too fast, and that a wide swath of the IDF reservists and even career officers might actually quit if the full judicial overhaul were passed in such a blitzkrieg-fashion.
However, since then they believe that Netanyahu has slowed the judicial overhaul campaign, spent time negotiating with the opposition and that the current reduced “reasonableness” clause issue is acceptable.
Further, they believe that much of the IDF is not as opposed to the current threat to weaken the “reasonableness” clause as it was to completely reinventing the way judges would be appointed or to giving the Knesset an easy veto over all judicial decisions.
In addition, in March both officials were in an initial state of shock at how deep the protest had penetrated the military. Since then, they believe they have made progress and persuaded many officers through dialogue to forgo refusing to obey call-up orders, though they may participate in street protests.
Despite that enhanced optimism from the two officials, on Wednesday an air force brigadier-general informed the IDF that he was reigning due to the Netanyahu government’s handling of judicial overhaul issues.
The senior officer said he had refrained from quitting earlier this year when the coalition paused the judicial overhaul campaign – but with the renewed threat from the government, could no longer continue to serve.
Officers who have not shown up for reserve duty for several months may be fired
The IDF had no public comment on his quitting, though sources referred to him as a single officer and not the start of a tidal wave. Nevertheless, the resignation of a brigadier-general, only one rank lower than the air force chief himself, could have ripple effects throughout the IDF.
For example, two officers who have not shown up for reserve duty for several months may be fired as part of a court martial in the coming days. In March, air force Chief Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar suspended Col. “G” for his alleged involvement in refusal campaigns.
Shortly after the decision was publicized, Bar retracted the suspension when G clarified that he had not and would not proactively encourage others to refuse their call-up orders.