Ex-deputy chief of Unit 8200 won't volunteer for reserves

Warning of ‘clear and immediate danger,’ ex-Shin Bet agents urge overhaul be shelved

Group of 800 ex-operatives says ‘Iron Dome’ of judicial protection that High Court provides Israeli forces ‘will be immediately removed’ if legislation to weaken judiciary passes

People attend a protest against the government's judicial overhaul plans in Tel Aviv, on July 15, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
People attend a protest against the government's judicial overhaul plans in Tel Aviv, on July 15, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

A group of 800 former Shin Bet agents on Sunday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to shelve the judicial overhaul, warning the legislation poses “a clear and immediate danger” to Israel’s security.

In a letter to Netanyahu and Gallant, the ex-operatives cited the coalition’s plans to curb the courts’ review powers, stressing the importance of an independent judiciary in countering terror. The group released the letter under the name “Shin Bet veterans for defending democracy.”

“This will bring substantial harm to international recognition of the independence of Israel’s judicial system in Israel,” they wrote. “It will substantially and immediately be a danger to the soldiers of the [Shin Bet], the agency’s employees and managers as well as IDF soldiers and commanders.”

The group warned Israeli forces “will be exposed to investigations and being put on trial at international tribunals” if the legislation passes, calling the High Court of Justice an “Iron Dome” that provides judicial cover to troops and decision-makers.

“This protection will be immediately removed if the legislation is passed,” the agents said.

“We call on you to act to immediately patch up the rifts in the nation and stop the judicial coup,” they added.

Over 800 former operatives signed the letter, according to the Ynet news site.

Separately, the former deputy chief of Military Intelligence’s elite Unit 8200 has told his commander he would no longer volunteer for reserve duty, the site reported.

Illustrative image of a hacker and online fraud. (scyther5; iStock by Getty Images)

The officer, identified only by his rank of Col. and first initial “C,” told other former soldiers in the unit he objects to a bill the coalition is advancing to bar courts from exercising judicial review over the “reasonableness” of government decisions.

“This is the first and significant step on the path to a judicial coup, which will lead the State of Israel to become a dictatorship,” the officer was quoted as saying.

“I love the State of Israel and believe now is the time to fight for it and its democratic and liberal character. Therefore, I am forced to take a step that I never thought I would need to take,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Walla news site reported Monday that over 500 bereaved relatives of fallen soldiers also urged Netanyahu — whose brother was killed in battle — to halt the judicial shakeup.

“We are calling to stop the destruction of the IDF, the pulverization of the economy and rending apart of the nation, which is a step away from bloodshed,” they reportedly wrote. “Our sacrifices must not be for nothing. The blood of the fallen cries out, ‘please, not for nothing.'”

Bereaved families and other Israelis stand next to memorial candles during a protest against the Israeli government’s planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv on April 22, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

The letters came as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant reportedly held an emergency meeting Sunday evening with Israel Defense Forces chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and other top officers to discuss the possible fallout if military reservists — particularly pilots — stop showing up for volunteer duty to protest the judicial overhaul.

According to leaks published by Hebrew media, Gallant and Chief of Staff Halevi were considering speaking with Netanyahu in the next few days to relay the concerns over the potential negative impact on military readiness.

According to a list published Sunday, nearly 4,000 reservists have signed letters threatening to not show up for duty in protest of the planned changes to the judiciary.

Many reservists — who are a key part of the army’s routine activities, including in top units — have been warning in recent months they will not be able to serve in what they charge will be an undemocratic Israel if the government’s overhaul plans are realized.

The calls to refuse to show up for reserve duty started roiling the military earlier this year as the judicial overhaul was first announced and as it advanced, growing in number even as they were condemned by senior politicians in both the opposition and the coalition.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a pre-Passover toast, with Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi at right, April 4, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

The threats again increased in recent weeks as the government resumed moving ahead in the Knesset with some elements of the plan, after largely pausing the legislation in March following pressure by reservists on Gallant.

Gallant in late March publicly warned that the rift over the overhaul was causing divides in the military that posed a tangible threat to Israeli security. In response to that warning, Netanyahu ordered Gallant’s firing, a move that sparked intensified national protests, in turn leading Netanyahu to temporarily suspend the legislation for three months and withdraw Gallant’s dismissal.

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