Netanyahu’s Judicial Overhaul Continues To Spark Dissent: Reservist Military Doctors In Protest

In protest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial overhaul, over 300 Israeli military doctors in reserve units have refused to serve, should the bill be pursued. The legislation proposed in January would have the ability to limit the Supreme Court’s power in balancing the Parliament, the Knesset. Protests have ensued all across the country in response to the government’s far-right and ultra Orthodox coalition, headed by Netanyahu. “If there are no gatekeepers and there is no effective judicial review, we will not be able to trust our commanders when we are sent to military missions,” said the doctors in a letter to the defense minister. 

“We won’t serve a dictatorship,” they wrote.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Netanyahu said he was no longer seeking to give parliament the authority to overturn Supreme Court rulings. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Netanyahu will push ahead with legislation but will strip it of a provision that would have given the national legislature the power to overturn rulings by the Supreme Court.”

“It’s out,” exclaimed Netanyahu. 

Other key issues proposed in this bill include the exemption from mandatory military service for ultra-Orthodox men who study in yeshivas, as well as strengthening the role of religion in the secular country. Since his re-election as prime Minister in December, Netanyahu has put together a coalition of six right-wing parties including the Anti-Arab Otzma Yehudit party, and several ultra-Orthodox parties such as Shas and the Religious Zionist Party. Hundreds of thousands of secular and liberal Israelis have taken to the streets in protest of Netanyahu’s bill. 

Thousands have continued to march in Bnai Brak, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood outside of Tel Aviv, a community full of the legislation’s supporters. 

Between the reserve military doctors and the civilians in the streets, opposition against Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul is strong. Reserve unit doctors who are past their mandatory military service have no obligation to serve a government running straight towards authoritarianism. According to Reuters, the coalition claims its goal is “to balance the powers of the government, legislature, and judiciary by reigning in a Supreme Court they see as too interventionist”. Many are worried that despite the proposed revision on the controversial project that would curb the Supreme Court’s powers, the government will still face severe corruption. 

Netanyahu has already been entangled in a year long corruption trial, in which he is accused of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. Between these multiple scandals involving powerful media moguls and his push for complete control through his judicial reform, his approval rates are plummeting. If the ultra-Orthodox parties who lead the government’s coalition have refused military service on a religious basis, why are they giving military orders from the high-up?

Western governments have grown concerned with Netanyahu’s actions. Joe Biden told reporters in June that he needs to walk away from it, and that he must not continue down this road. Others are concerned for Israel’s democratic health and have already “spooked investors” according to Reuters. The criticism that Israel faces by the United States, one of their closest allies, could be detrimental to their economy. Moreover, Netanyahu’s longing for authoritarian control has already influenced global concern. It is up to Israeli military reserve doctors, soldiers, and civilians to stand up for what is right and continue challenging the government.