Druze ex-IDF general: 'Listen to your conscience once again'

Reservists rally overnight at Gallant home, hoping he’ll intervene on overhaul again

After defense minister caused legislative package’s pause in March, thousands urge him to speak out a second time; 420 members of navy special ops say they’re done volunteering

Reservists protest against the government's judicial overhaul, outside the home of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Moshav Amikam, on July 8, 2023 (Shir Torem/Flash90)
Reservists protest against the government's judicial overhaul, outside the home of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Moshav Amikam, on July 8, 2023 (Shir Torem/Flash90)

Several thousand protesters gathered outside the home of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Saturday evening to hold an overnight demonstration organized by army reservists against the judicial overhaul.

The 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. rally in the northern town of Amikam appeared to be the first of its kind from anti-overhaul activists, who have recently intensified their efforts as the government readies to advance in the coming days the first part of a legislative package aimed at radically curbing the country’s judiciary.

The anti-overhaul protest group Brothers in Arms said in a statement that “chiefs of staff and IDF generals throughout the ages, Mossad commanders, Shin Bet and police commanders” participated in the overnight rally.

“Together we will pin our hopes on the defense minister, who has already proven that, in obedience to his conscience, he will not allow damage to Israel’s security and for the nation to be torn apart,” the protest group added.

In late March, Gallant called for a pause to the judicial overhaul, citing a “tangible danger” to state security, as hundreds of military reservists threatened to stop showing up for duty, in protest of the contentious legislation.

Gallant was the first member of the government to publicly call for halting the overhaul, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by announcing his decision to axe him the next day. That announcement led to spontaneous protests of an intensity and scope not seen during the first three months of demonstrations, which ostensibly led to the premier’s decision to heed Gallant’s call the next day and hold talks with the opposition aimed at reaching a compromise for judicial reform.

Members of the Druze community protest outside the home of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on July 8, 2023. (Amos Gil)

But those negotiations broke down last month, leading the coalition to announce that it would begin unilaterally advancing parts of the overhaul. The coalition on Monday is set to pass through a first Knesset reading a bill to remove courts’ ability to rule on the “reasonableness” of governmental decisions.

At the overnight protest in front of Gallant’s home, the speakers called on the defense minister to once again come out against the plans of his fellow coalition lawmakers as he did three months ago.

“The societal rift is deeper than ever and the [government’s] coup d’état will destroy the people’s army,” said former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon.

“I wrote to you in the past because I hoped you were the same brave commander I appointed to command the Shayetet navy reconnaissance unit,” Ayalon continued. “You owe your ministry to us and the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets. You chose your loyalty to Israel’s security over loyalty to Netanyahu in the past and we expect you to do so again.”

Israelis protest against the judicial overhaul, outside Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s home in Moshav Amikam, July 6, 2023. (Flash90)

Moshe Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff and Likud defense minister, said in his speech that he was ashamed of Gallant and other members of his former party. “I also know Nir Barkat and Avi Dichter who were my subordinates in the army. How are you not ashamed to let Benjamin Netanyahu lead us to destruction?” he asked.

Addressing Gallant, IDF Maj. Gen. (Res.) Noam Tibon said the defense minister was well aware of the damage that the overhaul was causing. It’s why [US President Joe] Biden is not prepared to meet Netanyahu.”

“You know that in order to prepare for the Iranian challenge, the IDF needs to be at its best, and that the pilots and reservists will not fly or fight for a dictatorship,” he warned.

Also speaking at the rally was former IDF general Amal Assad, a prominent social activist in the Druze community.

“Yoav, I came here to remind you that you and I are brothers,” he began. “When you came to replace me as brigadier general for the Jenin region, I told you that until then I thought there were no longer any brave people like me, but you shattered my perception.

“Today I stand here together with Brothers in Arms to call on you once again to listen to your conscience. Make the brave decision and stop the madness,” Assad said.

A sign unfurled at the protest read: “The legislative process should be halted,” quoting a line from Gallant’s speech on March 25.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks in a televised address on March 25, 2023, urging a pause to the government’s judicial overhaul legislation. (Courtesy)

Earlier Saturday, a group of 420 Shayetet reservists published an open letter to Gallant in which they informed him of their decision to cease reporting for voluntary reserve duty in response to the government’s decision to resume the advancement of legislation to overhaul the judiciary this week. The reservists said they would stay home as long as the government continues to advance the overhaul legislation.

“We are committed to fulfilling our part of the contract with the state when the state resumes fulfilling its part,” the letter to Gallant stated.

Such letters became increasingly common ahead of Gallant’s March decision to call for a pause to the overhaul. The number of individuals who threatened to stop reporting for reserve duty and of those who made good on that threat were believed to have been significant factors in Netanyahu’s decision to pause the overhaul three months ago.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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