INSS think tank issues unprecedented warning against judicial overhaul, urges halt

Group sends out first-ever ‘strategic alert’ cautioning government’s planned legislation will drain IDF capabilities and fighting spirit, harm ties with US, deplete economy

Israeli soldiers guard on the northern border between Lebanon and Israel,  March 15, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers guard on the northern border between Lebanon and Israel, March 15, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) issued a first-of-its-kind warning Tuesday, cautioning that the government’s drastic judicial overhaul as currently being advanced will damage Israel’s military capabilities and fighting spirit, threaten ties with the US, and cripple the economy.

Due to the “looming crisis,” the think tank said it had a duty to issue an unprecedented “urgent strategic alert.”

It was the latest in a series of warnings from a variety of experts and officials against the reform and included a plea that the legislation be immediately stopped.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition of ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties has barreled ahead with legislation that aims to weaken the Supreme Court’s ability to hold the government in check and give the government control over the appointment of judges.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets over the past two months to protest the sweeping overhaul.

The INSS cited growing refusals by IDF reservists to show up for volunteer duty, rifts with the US, and growing warnings of economic dangers, as well as polarization in society as a result of the divisive plan, which “magnifies these threats and impairs our ability to tackle them,” it said.

“The judicial changes in their current form will seriously harm the functioning of the IDF, will reduce Israel’s ability to deal with its enemies, endanger relations with the USA and sabotage the economy,” it warned.

“Pursuing the judicial reform has already generated an unprecedented internal confrontation that weakens Israeli society and intensifies the security, geopolitical and economic threats facing it. We warn that pushing forward with the reform will further diminish social resilience; degrade the spirit that animates the IDF as well as its operational capabilities; undermine Israel’s ability to face its enemies and to preserve the support of its friends, particularly the USA; and weaken its economy as well as its flagship high-tech sector,” it added.

The INSS urged that the legislation “be stopped immediately, so as to focus instead on the severe threats to Israel’s national security, and on the restoration of social cohesion and resilience.”

The government and its supporters say the plan is a long-overdue measure to curb what they see as an outsized influence by unelected judges. But critics say the plan will destroy Israel’s fragile system of checks and balances by concentrating power in the hands of Netanyahu and his parliamentary majority. They also say it is an attempt by Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, to escape justice.

Business leaders, Nobel-winning economists, and prominent security officials have spoken out against it, military reservists have threatened to stop reporting for duty and even some of Israel’s closest allies, including the US, have urged Netanyahu to slow down. Repeated efforts by President Isaac Herzog to broker a compromise have not yielded fruit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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