Two veterans of the Yom Kippur War on Thursday stole a tank from a site in the Golan Heights that commemorates a famous battle during the 1973 conflict, to be used in a protest against the government’s push to upend the judiciary.
Several more protesters — also veterans of the 1973 war — tied banners to a trailer carrying the decommissioned Sho’t tank, the Israeli term for the British-made Centurion, which was taken from the Tel Saki memorial site.
“The soldiers of 1973 [Yom] Kippur are fighting for the character of the country,” one banner in Hebrew read.
One large banner was a copy of the Israeli declaration of independence, with another banner underneath it in English reading, “Defending Israel’s Declaration of Independence.”
The word “democracy” was spray-painted in Hebrew on the tank.
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.
מעל מאה מלוחמי מלחמת יום הכיפור, בהם עטורי עיטורי העוז והמופת החלו כעת מצומת משמר הירדן הישנה שבגליל העליון במסעם למאבק על דמותה של המדינה בהתנגדות לרפורמה המשפטית. בראש שיירת המסע הוצב טנק סנטוריון מימי מלחמת כיפור ועליו פרוסה מגילת העצמאות. pic.twitter.com/GdW4MnYPSh
— יאיר קראוס (@yair_kraus) February 16, 2023
The driver of the truck that hauled the tank and the protest organizer were both detained and taken for questioning. The pair served in the Armored Corps during the 1973 war.
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.