Tensions Intensify in Israel as Army Reservists Voice Resolute Opposition to Government Proposals, Threatening to Refuse Military Service
Over the course of his service to his country, Zur Allon, a seasoned 46-year-old reservist lieutenant colonel in the Israeli artillery special forces, never anticipated the moment when he would consider refusing his call to duty.
As one of the spearheads of Brothers and Sisters in Arms—a pressure group of over 60,000 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reservists created earlier this year—Allon has experienced loss and sacrifice in defense of his country. "Half of my company was obliterated in Lebanon. Many years of my life have been devoted to safeguarding this nation," Allon said, expressing his fervor.
The group's anger stems from the government's proposed comprehensive revision of the judicial system. "Our government is fracturing a fundamental pact we have—to guard a Jewish and democratic Israel," Allon declared.
Israel's defense forces, founded by David Ben-Gurion, were intended to be "the people's army": an apolitical body that united Israelis from various ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic strata, fostering national cohesion. However, the erosion of this vision over time mirrors the deepening societal divides within the country.
While Israel's small standing army leans heavily on its 465,000-strong reservist force, even in times of peace, it has never witnessed a level of potential civil disobedience as it faces now. The conflict stems from the contentious government proposals that could result in democratic backsliding, drawing comparisons to Hungary and Turkey.
The Israeli military is particularly concerned that these judicial changes could expose officers to international prosecution. This fear has led over 10,000 reservists to sign a public letter, stating they would request release from service if the government pushes through the contentious legislation. This mass action, if realized, could significantly impact the IDF's readiness for operations.
Yair Golan, a reservist major general and former deputy economy minister of the left-wing Meretz party, articulated the anger: “With the protests yielding no results and the government continuing unabated, we have no choice but to refuse service. We must prioritize preserving Israel as a democratic state and opposing this government.”
The implications of this mounting discontent are yet to be fully recognized by the ruling coalition. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, already grappling with corruption charges, seems to be taking a back seat, allowing his coalition partners to steer the political discourse.
Meanwhile, Israel's protest movement is also compelled to introspect. "This is the most severe crisis for Israeli society since the Yom Kippur war," said Golan, referring to the 1973 surprise attack by Israel's Arab neighbors. "Israel will undeniably be changed by this, and therein lies the challenge. It's not just about resistance: we need to constructively channel this into building a better future."