Reserves soldiers protest at home of minister who told service refusers ‘go to hell’

Fellow members of Likud also chastise Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi over his remarks; Yesh Atid MK says he should be fired

Screen capture from video of Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, center, speaking with protesters outside his home in Moshav Zimrat, March 7, 2023. (Channel 12, Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, center, speaking with protesters outside his home in Moshav Zimrat, March 7, 2023. (Channel 12, Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A group of army reservists who object to the government’s planned drastic changes to the judiciary protested Tuesday at the home of Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi over remarks he made the night before about reservists who threaten to not show up for their military service.

In a social media post Monday evening, Karhi said that those who refuse to show up for IDF reserve duty in protest of the judicial plan can “go to hell.”

Members of the “Brothers in Arms” groups laid down a red and white warning tape around Karhi’s home on Moshav Zimrat near the Gaza Border, and put up a sign warning of a “dud munition.”

When the minister came out to speak with the protesters, one of them told Karhi that “the damage you are doing is damage that can’t be repaired afterward, damage that leaves scars,” Channel 12 reported.

Karhi told the protesters that his remarks were not directed at reservists who oppose the judicial change, but rather at those who are threatening to not show up for duty.

“You are my brothers in arms,” Karhi told the group.

Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on January 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Another reservist group against the judicial plan, comprising those serving in special forces, said in a statement: “We have been in all corners of the globe for the sake of the country — hell is one destination too far. We aren’t going anywhere. We will fight for democracy — this is our reserve service,” Channel 12 reported.

Condemnation of Karhi’s remarks also came from other Likud ministers, including Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis and Culture Minister Miki Zohar.

Akunis told Army Radio that Karhi’s remarks were “an unnecessary statement that does not lower the flames [of civil strife], perhaps the opposite.” Zohar tweeted that we “are all brothers,” those who disagree with the overhaul “are not our enemies,” and we must “turn down the flames.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich also appeared to chastise Karhi, tweeting that “we should not be dragged by any side into a disparaging discourse about dear fighters who dedicate their lives for the people and the country.”

Former communications minister Yoaz Hendel, who was a member of the opposition New Hope party, tweeted that he was “embarrassed by my successor.”

Yesh Atid MK Vladimir Beliak said Karhi should be fired while Labor lawmaker Gilad Kariv tweeted, “Thanks for the suggestion but we really don’t intend to go to hell. We aren’t going to be your scapegoat either.”

MK Mickey Levi, also of Yesh Atid, suggested that Karhi was drunk from Purim festival celebrations when he posted the remarks  and tweeted “if you drink, don’t tweet.”

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s silence about Karhi’s remarks and similar comments branding anti-government protesters “terrorists” is “nothing less than a large-scale attack. This is a serious injury to Israel’s security, national resilience, and the deterrent power of the IDF.”

Liberman wrote that Netanyahu was leading Israel to “destruction” and called on the prime minister to resign.

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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 Netanyahu presses ahead with legislation that would radically restrict the High Court of Justice’s power and assert political control over judicial appointments.

“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.

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)

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.

Karhi’s 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.

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