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Israeli military reservists say they will stop serving if judiciary is weakened

More than 1,100 Israeli military reservists say they will stop serving if Benjamin Netanyahu's government weakens judicial independence. Their warning comes as thousands continue to protest the effort, seen by many Israelis as undermining democracy. Photo by Debbie Hill/ UPI
1 of 5 | More than 1,100 Israeli military reservists say they will stop serving if Benjamin Netanyahu's government weakens judicial independence. Their warning comes as thousands continue to protest the effort, seen by many Israelis as undermining democracy. Photo by Debbie Hill/ UPI | License Photo

July 21 (UPI) -- More than 1,100 Israeli military reservists warned Friday they will cease serving to protest the government's plans to weaken the independent power of the judiciary.

In a letter addressed to members of the Knesset and top military officials, the 1,142 reservists called on the government to reach broad agreements in order to strengthen the trust in the judicial system and to preserve its independence.

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"Legislation that affects the Jewish or democratic character of the State of Israel must be carried out through negotiations and broad public agreement," they wrote. "Legislation that allows the government to act in an extremely unreasonable manner will harm the security of the State of Israel, will cause a loss of trust and a violation of my consent to continue risking my life, and will lead, with deep sorrow and no choice, to suspending my volunteer reserve duty."

The military reservists who signed the letter include 235 fighter pilots, 98 transport pilots, 89 helicopter pilots, 91 pilots serving in the flight school, and 165 elite air force commandos.

Israeli Air Force Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, one of the officials addressed in the letter, said on Thursday that his branch would continue to operate normally despite the threat.

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"The harsh statements that have been made toward the army and the Air Force, standing reserves, in recent days, have no place in society and they have caused great damage to the cohesion of the force. I strongly condemn them," he said.

The right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to take away judicial independence and place it under political control. That effort comes as Netanyahu continues to face corruption charges of fraud, breach of trust and allegedly accepting bribes.

At issue is the weakening of the Supreme Court and diminishing the judiciary's power to legally act against the Knesset, allowing a simple majority vote in the Israeli parliament to override judicial decisions on legislation. The government could also appoint members of a panel that chooses new judges.

During his speech to the joint session of the U.S. Congress Israeli President Isaac Herzog alluded to the controversial judicial reform effort that has contributed to a cooling of U.S.-Israeli relations.

Opponents of the reforms call them a threat to democracy.

Herzog told Congress Israel's democratic tradition has always been based on an independent judiciary and in a nod to President Joe Biden's desire to see Israeli's reach consensus on the issue said he would do all he can to work toward that consensus.

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