In a last-ditch effort to prevent the implementation of controversial judicial reforms, thousands of Israelis flooded the streets of Jerusalem, with tens of thousands marching from Tel Aviv to the parliament. The political crisis resulting from the government’s overhaul plans has sparked mass protests for 29 weeks and drawn international criticism, including from the administration of US President Joe Biden. Amidst the turmoil, a group of 10,000 reservists declared their refusal to volunteer for duty, adding to the mounting resistance within Israel’s military.
Mass Protests to “Save Democracy”
Amidst soaring temperatures and a sea of Israeli flags, demonstrators marched toward the parliament in Jerusalem to express their concerns about the government’s plans. The four-day, 70km march from Tel Aviv, organized under the banner of “saving democracy,” culminated in a powerful display of dissent. Similar protests erupted in other cities, with one in Tel Aviv attracting approximately 100,000 people, as reported by Israeli media.
Reservists’ Opposition Amplifies
In a significant show of dissent within the military, the group “Brothers in Arms” announced that its 10,000 members would cease reporting for duty as a protest against the proposed judicial overhaul. This followed a similar move by over 1,100 air force reservists, causing concern among senior officials about the potential consequences. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has ensured Israel’s security amidst the rising consternation, attempting to persuade government and opposition leaders to reach a compromise.
Government Divided on Overhaul
While some government ministers, like diaspora affairs minister Amichai Chikli, vehemently supported proceeding with the reforms, others expressed concern about the impact of reservists’ actions. Chikli likened the reservists’ refusal to extortion. Still, a group of former leaders from the military, Mossad intelligence agency, and Shin Bet security agency supported the reservists’ stance, urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay the overhaul.
Controversial Overhaul Proposals
The first phase of the proposed overhaul aims to restrict Israel’s top court from using the standard of “reasonableness” to challenge government decisions. The government argues that such changes, along with a revamp of the judicial panel, are necessary to address an allegedly overpowered judiciary with a partisan, left-wing agenda. However, critics contend that the reforms would undermine checks on Israeli governments, potentially harm minority rights, encourage corruption, and impact the economy.
The massive protests and the growing number of reservists opposing the judicial reforms highlight the deep divide between Israel’s society and the military. As the political crisis intensifies, the future of the controversial overhaul remains uncertain, with government officials and citizens clashing over the direction of the country’s judiciary.