Just slightly over 24 hours after the Knesset repealed the judiciary’s reasonability standard, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke on Tuesday with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant by phone, and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi was set to meet with CENTCOM chief Gen. Michael Kurilla on Wednesday.
The two interactions in parallel to each other, and in such short proximity to the major Knesset legislation, left the impression of the US military checking in with the IDF to see how much its readiness and the country’s joint operations may be impacted by the IDF reservists’ quitting movement.
Throughout recent weeks, there has been regular contact between US and Israeli officials as Washington tried to convince Jerusalem to back off of the repeal or water it down. Meanwhile, Jerusalem tried to prepare Washington for the idea that the repeal was not as extreme as the original judicial reform.
But all of this was at the policy level about whether the Israeli government would go through with the repeal and what the policy consequences might be from the Biden administration if the Jewish state did so.
These latest meetings have a much more practical function.
Judicial reform impact on IDF
The whole world, including Israel’s enemies and allies, know that the IDF has been negatively impacted during the judicial overhaul debate, and now is an opportunity for the US military echelon to see and hear directly exactly where that leaves America’s key Middle Eastern ally.
Further, the two countries have carried out far more joint drills since Israel joined CENTCOM and have future commitments regarding those drills in order to message to Iran and others the power that the allies can bring to bear.
More joint drills are scheduled for fall 2023.
Austin and Kurilla are likely checking whether Israel’s involvement in these drills will be impacted by IDF reservists quitting.
Further, they are likely checking if there will be changes to aspects of the various contingency plans for striking Iran, should such a need arise.