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Jerusalem, March 20 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on security chiefs to prevent refusal to service, as hundreds of reservists said they would not show up for duty in protest against the government’s contentious judiciary overhaul.
Speaking in a televised address during his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said that he expected Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and other security chiefs to “vigorously fight against refusal to serve”, Xinhua news agency reported.
“There is no place for refusal to serve in the public discourse,” he said.
On Thursday, 650 reservists, including those from the Military Intelligence’s Special Operations Division, Mossad, Shin Bet and cyber warfare units, announced in a statement that they would refuse to show up for duty starting Sunday in protest at the judicial reform.
Meanwhile, some 180 reservists with the air force, mainly aircrews, drone operators and air traffic control operators, declared in an open letter that they would not show up for training this week, while approximately 100 others from a classified air force unit said they would refuse to serve if the government continue to push forward the plan.
In Israel, military service became voluntary for reservists when they reached their 40s, but many choose to continue to serve. The objection is unprecedented since Jewish Israelis consider the military as one of the country’s most trusted and adored institutions, and refusal as a taboo.
Israel has seen weeks-long demonstrations against the plan pushed ahead by Netanyahu’s new ultranationalist and ultra-religious governing coalition.
The plan would give the Israeli parliament the power to override Supreme Court decisions and to decide all judicial appointments, sparking fear that it would weaken the supreme court and threaten democracy by giving the government too much power.
According to Netanyahu, the overhaul is needed to curb the overly activist Supreme Court.