Yom Kippur War vets detained for taking old APC to protest judicial overhaul

After stealing tank on Thursday, group claims it has permission to use Bren Carrier for demonstration; kibbutz members said to ask it be returned

A Bren Carrier APC taken from the Old Gesher museum by veterans of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, to protest the government's planned judicial overhaul, February 18, 2023. (Israel Police)
A Bren Carrier APC taken from the Old Gesher museum by veterans of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, to protest the government's planned judicial overhaul, February 18, 2023. (Israel Police)

Police on Saturday detained three veterans of the Yom Kippur War for allegedly stealing a decommissioned armored personnel carrier to use in a protest against the government’s push to upend the judiciary.

The protesters claimed they had permission to borrow the British-made Bren Carrier from a museum near Kibbutz Gesher in northern Israel — known as Old Gesher — but police said they did not have a valid permit.

The demonstrators presented a letter from a nearby quarry, owned by Gesher, saying they could use the APC for the protest. Kibbutz members asked to have the vehicle returned after the three were detained for questioning, according to Hebrew media reports.

A large banner with a copy of the Declaration of Independence was tied to the APC. A banner underneath it in English reading: “Defending Israel’s Declaration of Independence.”

The incident came after the same group of protesters on Thursday stole a decommissioned Sho’t tank, the Israeli term for the British-made Centurion, from the Tel Saki memorial site in Golan Heights, which commemorates a famous battle during the Yom Kippur war.

The word “democracy” was spray-painted in Hebrew on the tank.

A Sho’t tank that was taken from the Tel Saki memorial site in the Golan Heights, by veterans of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, to protest the government’s planned judicial overhaul, February 16, 2023. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Police said officers tracked down the tank at Kibbutz Gadot — some 40 kilometers (24 miles) from Tel Saki — after receiving a report it was stolen. Two suspects — who served in the Armored Corps during the 1973 conflict — were questioned, and the tank was returned later in the day.

Last week, several thousand military reservists and IDF veterans rallied outside the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem at the culmination of a three-day march from Latrun — a memorial site for fallen soldiers of Israel’s Armored Corps — to protest the government’s planned radical changes to the judicial system.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has prioritized the proposals. Critics say that along with other planned legislation, they will deeply undermine Israel’s democratic character by upsetting its system of checks and balances, granting almost all power to the executive branch and leaving individual rights unprotected and minorities undefended.

The plan has drawn intense criticism and warnings from leading financial and legal experts, as well as weekly protests and public petitions by various officials, professionals and private companies.

Netanyahu has pushed back against the criticism, saying that the proposals would strengthen rather than weaken democracy, and that his government is carrying out the will of the people.

Members of Netanyahu’s coalition have also vowed to pass other controversial bills, some of which relate to the military.

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