IDF vets start 3-day march to Jerusalem to protest judicial overhaul plans

Dozens of ex-Armored Corps generals pen letter warning legislation will harm military draft, ‘willingness of reserves to mobilize’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Hundreds of IDF reservists and veterans begin a march from Latrun to Jerusalem to protest the government's judicial overhaul plans, February 7, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Hundreds of IDF reservists and veterans begin a march from Latrun to Jerusalem to protest the government's judicial overhaul plans, February 7, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Hundreds of Israeli military reservists and veterans began a three-day march from Latrun to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, protesting the government’s planned radical changes to the judicial system.

The march was the latest in a series of demonstrations against the contentious proposal.

According to the organizers, the vets and supporters plan to march some eight kilometers each day, ending with a protest on Friday outside the Supreme Court.

Among the marchers were former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and retired major general Tal Russo, who served as chief of the military’s Southern Command and briefly entered politics in 2019.

“I hope that we will manage to somehow hold it back, and insert some sense into this gang of out-of-touch people who are leading [the judicial overhaul],” Russo told the Ynet news site. “They are out-of-touch and dangerous.”

Latrun, a strategic hill, was the site of fierce fighting during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence and 1967 Six Day War. A British police fort on the hill was converted into a memorial site for fallen soldiers of Israel’s Armored Corps, as well as a museum.

On Tuesday, 15 ex-Armored Corps major generals and dozens more senior officers — several of them with decorations and citations — penned a letter against the government’s judicial plans.

The letter, first published by Channel 13 news, warned that in addition to potentially harming democracy, if the judicial plan is enacted it would harm recruitment to the Israel Defense Forces and the call-up of reserve forces.

“The Israeli government’s legislative plan to change the nature of the regime will severely damage the justice system, bring the end of democracy, and bring a dictatorship rule in our country,” the letter read.

“As senior commanders in the Armored Corps, we warn against moves that could damage the motivation and willingness of the reserves army to mobilize,” the officers added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has prioritized the dramatic judicial restructuring that would increase government control over the judiciary.

Critics say that along with other planned legislation, the sweeping reforms will impact Israel’s democratic character by upsetting its system of checks and balances, granting almost all power to the executive branch and leaving individual rights unprotected and minorities undefended.

The plan has drawn intense criticism and warnings from leading financial and legal experts, as well as weekly protests and public petitions by various officials, professionals, and private companies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a plenum session for Knesset’s 74th anniversay, in the assembly hall of the Knesset, on February 6, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu has pushed back against the criticism, saying that the proposals would strengthen rather than weaken democracy, and that his government was carrying out the will of the people.

Members of Netanyahu’s coalition have also vowed to pass other controversial bills, some of which relate to the military.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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