In the latest headlines and opinion pieces, there have been numerous discussions about the air force and intelligence reservists who are refusing to serve if this judicial reform goes ahead. This decision has caused concern that Israel’s defense capabilities will be compromised. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi are very concerned. The media and the public have been alternately sympathetic and outraged, condemning this as an act of insubordination for political motivations. However, very few of the articles discussing this issue relate to the real reason these reservists have taken this stand.
The real reason reservists are striking is this; Israeli fighter pilots are very vulnerable to prosecution for war crimes under international criminal law. One of the main obstacles to such a prosecution being mounted in the International Criminal Courts, (the ICC) is that Israel has a widely respected Supreme Court that prosecutes breaches of human rights, and oversees the internal workings and decision-making of the army and air force regarding the treatment of combatants and non-combatants. Which means that the ICC has been blocked from intervening. Until now.
The proposed legal changes jeopardize this legal defense and are a gift to Israel’s enemies.
There has been very little noise from the EU and Palestinian legal teams about the judicial reforms. That is because they desperately hope it will go ahead. They are literally rubbing their hands with glee at this moment. It is exactly the final piece that the prosecution needs in order to make its case against Israel in the ICC.
If our government passes this law, compromising the supreme court’s ability to protect human rights, expect that senior Israeli soldiers, air force pilots, special commando and intelligence officers will be the first to come under legal attack. And they know this.
Now, imagine you have given your life to protect this country and then worrying that you could be arrested on your next trip overseas for work; or fearing going on holiday with your family. Is that a fair reward for such commitment and dedication? Perhaps we can admit they have a real, justified concern and this is not just a political stunt.
Regardless of their political views, both the defense minister and chief of staff realize they have a real problem on their hands. When politicians are busy championing the right of their constituents to not serve in the army, and have barely served themselves; when they are busy trying to protect themselves from prosecution, and shore up their power; it is doubly insulting that they would rush to expose their top soldiers and pilots to the dangers of prosecution by an anti-Israel tribunal in a foreign land.
We expect our soldiers to serve unquestioningly. Yet that kind of trust must be earned. When a government shows such disregard for the lives of its soldiers, it can expect those soldiers to stop respecting its authority. We can and should take their concerns seriously. We can do better.
The writer is a lawyer and management consultant and CEO and founder of Workwell. She is also chair of Mavoi Satum – a nonprofit which advocates for equal divorce rights.