Ex-IDF commandos planning march to protest government’s judicial shakeup

Former members of elite units organizing 3-day demonstration, joining economists, students, lawyers and other groups who have voiced opposition to coalition’s overhaul plans

Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

A group of former members of the Israel Defense Forces’ elite Sayeret Matkal unit is planning a three-day march to Jerusalem to protest against the government’s planned judicial overhaul, according to a Wednesday report.

The former commandos are set to issue a call to comrades and members of other elite units to join the protest that will see them walk from the former Sayeret Matkal base in central Israel to the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, Channel 12 news reported.

A message that will be sent out in the coming days calls the demonstration “the most important march of our lives, as part of the struggle to defend democracy against the destruction of the judicial system.”

“All of us need to unite and protest for the future of Israel’s democracy,” the message said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a member of Sayeret Matkal during his military service.

The planned protest follows rallies by lawyers, students and economists, and mass public demonstrations against the plans, which critics say will dramatically defang Israel’s judiciary and undermine democracy.

Tech workers block the street to protest judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, on January 24, 2023 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Judicial reform supporters have asserted the need to rebalance the power of public authorities in the face of an activist Supreme Court.

As presented by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the coalition’s proposals would severely restrict the court’s capacity to strike down laws and government decisions, with an “override clause” enabling the Knesset to re-legislate struck-down laws with a bare majority of 61; give the government complete control over the selection of judges; prevent the court from using a test of “reasonableness” to judge legislation and government decisions; and allow ministers to appoint their own legal advisers, instead of getting counsel from advisers operating under the aegis of the Justice Ministry.

Recent controversy has focused on the plan’s potential effects on the economy by spooking investors, hurting Israel’s credit rating and causing some high-skilled workers to move abroad.

On Wednesday, hundreds of Israeli economists, including former senior advisers to Netanyahu, published an “emergency letter” warning that the reforms could “cripple the country’s economy.”

Their warning came the day after Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron reportedly outlined for Netanyahu the potential consequences of the proposed judicial overhaul and relayed warnings made by senior economic figures and officials from credit rating firms during his recent meetings at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Netanyahu brushed off the concerns Wednesday evening at a press conference, labeling the criticisms “irresponsible” fearmongering, claiming the plan to transfer power from the courts to politicians will strengthen the economy.

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