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Israel: more elite IDF troops join anti-Netanyahu protests

March 8, 2023 at 10:06 am

People holding Israeli flags gather outside Netanyahu’s house to protest against the government of Benjamin Netanyahu over plans to pass controversial judicial reforms in Jerusalem on March 01, 2023 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Troops from several elite military units in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have joined the protests against the overhaul of the judicial system planned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, local media have reported.

According to the Times of Israel today, reservists with the units who joined the protests said that they would either refuse call-up orders or cease volunteering extra time. The protesting reservists are said to come from the IDF’s most elite formations, such as the 69th Squadron, Flotilla 13 naval commandos, the Air Force’s Shaldag special forces unit, the Golani Brigade and the Armoured Corps.

Netanyahu and his judicial reform plans – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Ynet News reported that Israeli Air Force Commander Tomer Bar issued an unusual statement last Friday defending his reservists who joined the protests. They faced a lot of abuse from politicians after 37 reserve pilots from the 69th Squadron, which flies the army’s heavy bombers, said that they would not turn up for training on Wednesdays.

“This is a real threat to Israel’s security,” warned Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Galant, pledging to crack down on the protest.

“Conditional pilots are not patriots,” tweeted Likud’s Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan. “Not the salt of the earth. Not Zionists. Not the best of our boys. Not wonderful people. Not ‘the people of Israel’.”

READ: Netanyahu warned that spread of protests may harm army efficiency

The reports said that the reservists argued that by eliminating the authority of the Supreme Court — which is what Netanyahu’s opponents say will be the result of his judicial review — pilots like themselves would be left defenceless against prosecution abroad. Some of them fly for Israeli national airline El Al around the world a couple of times a week.

“In the morning they may be sent on a mission to bomb Gaza or Syria, and in the evening, they may land their [El Al] planes in London or Paris,” wrote Nahum Barnea in Ynet News. “Why would they want to be exposed to litigation abroad? Let Netanyahu find others to do the job.”