Israel’s far-right coalition government, the most extreme in Israel’s history of extreme governments, has started a controversial process to reform the judicial system in the occupation state. The intention is to weaken the power of the Supreme Court to oversee legislation passed by the politicians, and to give more power to cabinet ministers.
There has been fierce opposition to the proposal within Israel and among its supporters and Zionist lobby groups around the world. Huge demonstrations have taken place in Israel for months now, which have sometimes turned violent, with police attacking and arresting protesters.
Protests have even taken place within the ranks of the Israel Defence Forces. Reservists have expressed their opposition to the plan by refusing to turn up for training and duty with the occupation army. Israeli military and political officials have warned that this will affect the ability of the armed forces to cope with military threats from abroad or within the occupied Palestinian territories.
On Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi reiterated that the government’s judicial overhaul has affected the army deeply. He stressed that Israelis are mistaken if they think that it can operate as it did before the judicial reform issue arose.
“An argument that leaves behind it a polarising divisive rift within Israeli society is dangerous,” Halevi was reported as saying by the Times of Israel. “Given the security challenges, it’s arrogant to allow this polarising debate, and to assume that the IDF is immune from the effects of destructive polarisation is a dangerous concept.”
the army has been “caught in the crosshairs” for the first time
Following the passing of the first piece of legislation required for the reform process, the Media Line reported a former AP news producer in Israel as saying that as Israel finds itself divided between supporters of the government’s proposed reform and those who vehemently oppose it, the army has been “caught in the crosshairs” for the first time. “As part of the opposition to the judicial reforms, military reservists who volunteer for service began threatening not to show up for service should the legislation proceed. After the first part of the legislation passed last month, those reservists started to deliver on their threats. Many units in Israel, including elite commando units and fighter pilots, are dependent on reservists for their daily performance.”
According to a report published by AP, “The Middle East’s best equipped and most powerful force is under one of the worst assaults it has encountered — a battle within its own ranks.” It added that the “rifts” caused by the judicial overhaul process “have infiltrated the military.”
Even hundreds of young recruits across Israel have publicly declared that they will refuse to serve in the Israeli army in protest against the judicial reforms. It should be obvious that the occupation army may well not be fit for purpose should any confrontation arise.
In the meantime, ministers in the extreme far-right government have worked hard to tighten the restrictions imposed on the Palestinians across the occupied territories, including the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli government has been accusing Palestinian groups in besieged Gaza of controlling the legitimate resistance against the occupation in the West Bank and Jerusalem. It has introduced several measures to tighten the restrictions imposed on the coastal enclave. The Erez Crossing was closed, for example, stopping 17,500 workers from Gaza being able to get to work within the apartheid state.
Moreover, the Benjamin Netanyahu-led government pledged to take military action against the Palestinians in Gaza, including assassinating resistance leaders and others who are allegedly responsible for running the resistance in the West Bank. They also pledged to attack resistance facilities in the territory.
At the same time, the government has asked Qatar to stop its grants for poor families in Gaza and stop paying for the fuel to run the sole power plant. It has also asked Egypt to tighten its restrictions on the entry of goods through the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. Exports from Gaza to Israel and beyond have been stopped.
The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, which is the de facto government in Gaza, has seized the opportunity and threatened to escalate the situation if Israel continues to clamp down and make life even more difficult for the 2.5 million Palestinians living under siege in Gaza. Although Israel puts massive amounts of pressure on its opponents, it was obliged to make concessions to the Palestinians in Gaza due to the persistence of the Palestinian resistance in the territory, and the internal rifts within the occupation army. Israel is simply not ready for any military confrontation, with Hamas or anyone else.
Since the Gulf War in 1990, only the Palestinian resistance in Gaza has been able to strike at the heart of Israeli cities. Now the political divide in Israel and the damage it has inflicted on the Israeli army means that the far-right coalition government has been obliged to back down on its threats, including the imposition of even more punitive measures imposed on Gaza. In that sense alone, Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul has benefited the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. That’s probably one consequence that he and his far-right cohort could never have predicted.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.