Dozens of Israeli cyber army reservists on strike over judicial overhaul

Dozens of Israeli cyber army reservists on strike over judicial overhaul
Around 300 reserve soldiers in the Israeli 'cyber' field suspended their duties in protest against 'undermining the judiciary'
3 min read
11 July, 2023
Protests erupted across Israel hours after parliament passed the adopted in a first reading the controversial bill [Getty]

At least 3oo Israeli army reservists from the cyber unit announced on Tuesday that they would suspend their duties to protest a controversial bill that restricts the powers of the Supreme Court.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed for judicial reforms that critics say would greatly inhibit the independence of the judiciary. 

The changes have led to mass protests in Israel over perceived threats to democracy, including from members of the military.

In a message to Israeli officials, the reserve forces said: "The Netanyahu government has proven that it is heading towards the destruction of the state of Israel".

The statement added that adopting the first reading of a key clause of the government's judicial overhaul package was "the first step in transforming Israel into a corrupt, dark, and weak state".

Protests erupted across Israel hours after parliament passed the adopted in a first reading the controversial bill that would limit court powers, which many say threatens democracy.

The government of Benjamin Netanyahu forged ahead with the controversial move despite mass demonstrations since the reforms were proposed in January.

Protesters blocked roads across Israel and gathered at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, with police reporting 42 arrests nationwide by 11am (8am GMT).

"I came here because this government is demolishing - totally - democracy in Israel," said Eitan Galon, a doctor protesting on a highway outside Jerusalem.

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"We will fight until the end," he added as police nearby used water cannon to disperse demonstrators.

The police in a statement said they "authorise the freedom to demonstrate while upholding law and order".

Israeli protest leaders had announced a day of mobilisation in anticipation of the parliamentary vote, with dozens of rallies expected across the country.

A demonstration was due Tuesday evening in Tel Aviv outside the embassy of Israel's top ally, the United States.

In a CNN interview aired on Sunday, US President Joe Biden said he hoped Netanyahu will "continue to move towards moderation and change in the court".

The Israeli premier told the Wall Street Journal last month that he had removed one of the most controversial elements of the overhaul, a clause that would allow parliament to override Supreme Court rulings.

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'Historic proportions'

The latest parliamentary vote aimed to scrap the so-called "reasonability" clause, through which the Supreme Court can strike down government decisions.

The measure was used recently to force Netanyahu to remove Aryeh Deri from his cabinet, over the senior politician's previous tax evasion conviction.

Speaking in parliament during the overnight debate, opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed "this damned government" and vowed the bill would not make it through its second and third readings.

Lapid and fellow opposition chiefs were involved in cross-party talks over the reform package, which collapsed last month.

Addressing the chamber, Justice Minister Yariv Levin said the current system contradicts democracy.

"The whole responsibility lies with the government, while a handful of judges - who are not required to report to the public - take the authority for themselves," he said.

The government temporarily paused the divisive overhaul in March in the wake of a general strike.

But in the absence of lasting negotiations with the opposition, the cabinet is now determined to press on with the legislative process.

Agencies contributed to this report.