Thursday 08 June 2023

Israel’s army fears effect of judicial crisis on battlefield readiness

Amos Yadlin: The cracks are already visible, competence is compromised and deterrence is weakened.

For weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defied critics of his plan to weaken Israel’s highest court: the hundreds of thousands of people who have turned out for protests, the former prime ministers and defense officials, prominent American Jews and Israel’s attorney general, New York Times reported.


But he may not be able to ignore a groundswell of dissent from one key Israeli institution: the powerful and influential military.


A growing number of Israeli reservists have threatened to withdraw from voluntary duty in recent weeks if the far-right government that took power late last year pushes ahead with its contentious plan to increase its control over the judiciary, the military says.


The military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, has told government leaders that the number of reservists reporting for duty this month fell so far that the military was on the verge of reducing the scope of certain operations, according to three Israeli officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The officials did not provide further details.


“When the government creates an unprecedented crisis of confidence in the reserve army, those who think that the crisis will not spill over to the regular army are wrong,” Amos Yadlin, a retired general and former head of Israeli military intelligence, wrote on Thursday on N12, a major Israeli news outlet. “The cracks are already visible, competence is compromised and deterrence is weakened.”


The military high command is also concerned about the possibility of resignations from full-time soldiers, two of the officials said.


Analysts say the crisis threatens to undermine Mr. Netanyahu’s reputation as a security expert who prioritizes the safety of the country above all else.


The concerns over morale in the military were at the heart of a drama on Thursday night when the war minister, Yoav Gallant, met with Mr. Netanyahu to warn him about the effects of the turmoil within the ranks. That intervention came before Mr. Gallant was about to speak out against the judicial plan.


The military has declined to make public full statistics for the drop in reservists reporting for duty this month. But it has confirmed that 200 reserve pilots — a significant proportion of the Israeli Air Force’s pilots, though not a majority — signed a letter on Friday saying that, in protest of the judicial proposal, they would not report for duty for the next two weeks.


A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied that military leaders had informed the prime minister personally of any threat to the military’s operational capacity. But on a visit to London on Friday, Mr. Netanyahu described the wider phenomenon of reluctant reservists as “a terrible danger to the State of Israel.”


The unrest within the military is considered the biggest side effect of the government’s divisive plans to overhaul the judiciary. Israel has faced growing dissent since January, when Mr. Netanyahu’s government announced plans to increase government control over who can be a judge and reduce the judiciary’s ability to strike down laws passed by Parliament.


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