Yom Kippur War veteran protesting overhaul: ‘If there’s a different regime it’s a different country’

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Anti-judicial overhaul protester Oded Megiddo, Jerusalem, July 24, 2023. (Jeremy Sharon/Time of Israel)
Anti-judicial overhaul protester Oded Megiddo, Jerusalem, July 24, 2023. (Jeremy Sharon/Time of Israel)

Oded Megiddo, 74 years old and a veteran of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, says he is demonstrating against the government because “the country has turned upside down.” He decries the government for its judicial overhaul plan and its cabinet ministers, some of whom he describes as “convicted criminals,” and “corrupt.”

Megiddo fought in a tank brigade in the Sinai front of the Yom Kippur War and says he was in the first brigade to cross the Suez canal during the IDF’s counteroffensive against the Egyptians, ending up on the western side of the canal close to the city of Ismailia.

“There are ‘hilltop youths’ who just eight months ago were carrying out attacks in the territories and are now ministers and members of Knesset,” says Megiddo, using a term for radical, extremist settler activists.

“One of them was convicted eight times and another was caught on his way to carry out a terror attack,” says Megiddo in reference to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who was arrested for but never charged with attempted terror offenses during the Gaza Disengagement in 2005.

״But we who fought for this country for decades and left our friends on the battlefield, we are the anarchists?” he demands.

Megiddo, who was lightly injured during the Yom Kippur War but returned to the front, insists the mass protest and refusal to perform reserve duty are legitimate since, he argues, the government is trying to change the nature of Israel’s democratic governance.

“The government is trying to change the regime here in Israel. Ben Gurion left us without a constitution but there are still Basic Laws and principles and they want to change it and turn it into something else.

“I served as battalion commander in the reserves for nine years under governments I didn’t vote for or agree with, because it was the regime I grew up in. But if there’s a different regime then it’s a different country,” argued Megiddo, saying that in those circumstances it was legitimate to stop serving.

Asked if halting reserve duty over a political dispute endangered the cohesiveness of the army, Megiddo argued that elements in the religious-right had called for soldiers in the conscript army to refuse orders during the Gaza Disengagement, and he claimed the army would be able to cope in similar circumstances.

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