‘Go to hell,’ Likud minister tells IDF reservists protesting judicial overhaul

In Purim message, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi vows judicial shakeup will move forward, since ‘it was for this moment that we came to power’

A 'Happy Purim' tweet on March 6, 2023, from Likud's Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi in which also he told IDF reservists protesting the coalition's judicial overhaul: ‘Go to hell' (Twitter)
A 'Happy Purim' tweet on March 6, 2023, from Likud's Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi in which also he told IDF reservists protesting the coalition's judicial overhaul: ‘Go to hell' (Twitter)

Amid growing threats by Israeli reserve soldiers to refuse to report for duty in protest over the government’s judicial overhaul push, a Likud lawmaker said that they can “go to hell” in a special Purim message on social media.

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi took to Twitter Monday night as Purim celebrations begin across Israel to lambast the growing number of prominent IDF reservists who have threatened not to report for duty if the coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presses ahead with legislation that would radically restrict the High Court of Justice’s power and assert political control over judicial appointments.

“And Mordechai would not kneel nor bow down,” Karhi wrote, quoting a text from the Purim megillah, which is traditionally read twice over the holiday. “There are times when one must stand firm against the hegemony.”

“To those refusing to serve, we say to them what Mordechai told Esther: ‘Profit and salvation will arise for the Jews from another place, and your father’s house will be destroyed.’”

“The people of Israel will manage without you and you can go to hell,” Karhi wrote to reservists who have voiced their fierce opposition to the coalition’s plans amid intense public protests that have drawn hundreds of thousands of people.

“The [judicial] reform movement will move forward. It was for this moment that we came to power,” Karhi said in reference to Netanyahu’s right-wing, far-right, and ultra-Orthodox coalition of 64 seats, sworn in just over two months ago.

In response to the tweets, Yisrael Beytenu MK Yulia Malinovsky, a member of the opposition, wrote: “Who exactly are you sending to hell? They are part of the nation and not just any part — they are the ones who support the state with their taxes, they serve in the army, they are pillars of the State of Israel.”

Malinovsky then blasted Karhi directly, accusing him of being “an ungrateful and disconnected person.”

Earlier Monday, Netanyahu said the growing phenomenon of reserve soldiers threatening to refuse to report for duty over his government’s judicial shakeup posed a threat to the country, sharply escalating the government’s rhetoric against the reservists.

“Refusal to serve threatens the foundation of our existence, and therefore it must have no place in our ranks,” Netanyahu said in a press conference from a Border Police base in the West Bank settlement of Beit Horon, standing alongside far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, also Likud.

Netanyahu said that “Israeli society has always condemned those refusing to serve. It has never allowed refusers to gain a foothold.”

“When you are on the battlefield and look right or left, you don’t do that to check the political viewpoints of your neighbors,” continued the premier. “In our society, there is room for protest, room for opposing viewpoints, but no room for refusing service.”

From left, police chief Kobi Shabtai, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana at a Purim megillah reading on a Border Police base in the West Bank on March 6, 2023. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

The remarks were among the sharpest against the reservists, who have become more vocal in recent days as the coalition moves forward with its judicial legislation. The threats have further divided Israeli society and roiled the military.

Responding to Netanyahu, opposition leader Yair Lapid said that “the only one responsible for the unfolding chaos and the deep rift within Israeli society and within the IDF is this government — the most destructive government in the country’s history.”

“Netanyahu, in your government there are two parties whose platform is a refusal to serve,” Lapid said, referring to the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, whose constituencies largely avoid serving in the IDF, opting instead to study Torah in yeshiva. “Why don’t you say a word about them? Instead of holding shameful press conferences with the TikTok clown, just stop the madness,” Lapid added, taking a shot at Ben Gvir, who is known for his avid social media presence.

IDF chief Herzi Halevi is slated to meet this week with pilots and officers from an array of reserve units to discuss the growing protests against the overhaul unfolding within the military’s ranks.

Halevi has warned Netanyahu that the protests’ growing spread in the military could harm its operational capabilities.

The top general will not hold a sit-down with the 37 pilots of a 40-man Israeli Air Force fighter jet squadron who announced that they would not show up to one of their planned training sessions later this week in protest of the overhaul, a military source said.

They were the highest-profile group in a growing list of IDF units, including some of the most elite, that have seen members threaten to not show up amid widescale opposition to the government’s plans that critics say will harm Israel’s democracy, economy and security.

Earlier Monday, all of the living former chiefs of the IAF issued a letter to Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, expressing their worry over the government’s continued push to radically restrict the power of the judiciary.

On Friday, dozens of senior pilots held an unprecedented meeting with the current IAF chief, Tomer Bar, in which they expressed major concerns about their continued service in the reserves.

Also Monday, President Isaac Herzog’s efforts to craft a compromise on the controversial plan appeared to be making progress. “We are closer than ever to the possibility of an agreed-upon framework,” Herzog said, without specifying who was involved in negotiations.

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