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Israeli army faces internal fissures over judicial overhaul as Iran watches

The refusal of hundreds of pilots and air force officers to show up for volunteer reserve duty marks the unprecedented rift hovering over Israel’s society generated by the government’s judicial overhaul plan.
Members of Israeli security forces disperse demonstrators staging a 'day of resistance' to protest the government's judicial overhaul bill, in Tel Aviv on July 18, 2023. The proposals have divided the nation and triggered one of the biggest protest movements in Israel's history since being unveiled in January by the hard-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

TEL AVIV — Israel is experiencing one of its most dramatic internal crises since its establishment 75 years ago, where even the army is torn over the judicial overhaul plan advanced by the Netanyahu government.

Over 500 reserve Israel Air Force pilots, a significant number of its operational force, are planning to refuse to show up for duty to protest the government’s neutering of the Supreme Court’s authority. The pilots are gathering the last of the 513 signatures on a letter to be handed to Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar. 

The dramatic move, first reported Friday by Channel 12 News, is the latest in a wave of pro-democracy protests among army reservists, including pilots, drone operators, special forces, intelligence experts and others. The government and some top military commanders are slamming the refusals as insubordination endangering the country’s security, while the reservists argue that the government’s weakening of the judiciary is turning Israel into a dictatorship that they can no longer serve. 

Clearly, the unprecedented penetration of the deep societal and political rift into the ranks of the military’s regular and reserve forces is undermining the final Israeli bastion of consensus — the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Still, this undermining affects not only Israel’s society; security tops are warning it could affect Israel’s security as well.

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