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Former military accuse Bibi of damaging Israel’s security

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Israel’s ruling coalition’s plans to reform or overhaul the judiciary – depending on which side of the argument you stand – has been one of the most polarising events in the country’s history.

Israeli society has become more fractious, and this has filtered out to diaspora communities.

Out of all the sectors and industries objecting to the proposed overhaul, Israel’s security establishment has been the most vociferous critic. Should the independence of the judiciary be radically curtailed and vital checks and balances removed, Israel’s military and security establishment could be vulnerable to those who seek to employ lawfare at the International Court of Justice.

Thousands of reservists from a variety of units across all major branches of the military have threatened not to report for duty, citing lack of trust in government ministers making decisions that could render them vulnerable to criminal charges.

The Supreme Court provides an extra layer of legal protection, ensuring compliance with international law and investigating any possible transgressions.

Imagine National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir or Bezalel Smotrich, a self-described fascist who has a military portfolio in the West Bank, making decisions that Israel’s soldiers must carry out. Therein lies the rub.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in New York this week ahead of his address to the United Nations General Assembly. As the prime minister was making his way “States-side”, more than 80 former top defence and security officials released a letter in Hebrew and English warning of “significant harm” to Israel’s security as a result of the proposed judicial overhauls.

Addressing the letter to Yuli Edelstein, the chairperson of the Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee, the damning letter accuses the prime minister of “deceit of the defence establishment” and “significant harm to the security of the state of Israel”.

“These actions – led and promoted by Netanyahu – are transforming the state of Israel from a democracy based on the principles of our declaration of independence to an autocracy that harms Israel’s national strength through the dismantling of the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], its defence establishment, economy, financial stability, and risks the social fabric of the people and the state of Israel,” the letter said.

“Netanyahu’s conduct and the manner in which he makes decisions could cause significant damage to the national security of Israel and also to the national security of Israel’s close ally – the United States,” it continued.

“It’s clear to us that the main motive for Netanyahu’s acts is his desire to stop the legal proceedings being conducted against him in the Israeli court on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, that were filed against him by the attorney general that he himself chose and appointed to the position. It’s clear to us that his actions are intended also to enable him to cancel the state commission of inquiry headed by former Supreme Court president, Justice Asher Grunis, which is investigating the ‘submarines and marine-vessels affair’”.

The letter continues to state specific incidents where the signatories believe that the prime minister is endangering the security of the country.

It concludes with a plea to Edelstein, who is a member of the Likud faction chaired by Netanyahu, and is the former speaker of Knesset.

“As chair of the Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee, it’s your duty by law to oversee the conduct of the government and its prime minister on such critical issues related to the national security of Israel and its future.”

Among the 82 signatories are Lt General Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, former defence minister and chief of staff; Carmi Gillon, former director of the Shin Bet; Commissioner Rafi Peled, former chief commissioner of Israel police; Ilan Mizrahi, former head of the national security council; Major General Danny Yatom, the former director of the Mossad; and others.

Earlier this week, the prime minister sat down for a conversation with the entrepreneur and owner of X, Elon Musk, and admitted that the initial proposal for overhaul was a “mistake” that would “reject one imbalance by creating another”, but that the process for electing judges must change. He said that was his focus.

As the pressure mounts on the prime minister, Israelis are wondering if it will have any effect before it’s too late.

  • Rolene Marks is a Middle East commentator often heard on radio and TV and is the co-founder of Lay of the Land and the SA-Israel Policy Forum.

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