Israeli ex-security czar backs reservist protest against Netanyahu judicial reform plan

Former Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman accused right-wing PM of trying to save his ruling coalition

The former head of Israel's internal security agency voiced support on Thursday for military reservists refusing to serve in protest of the government's planned judicial overhaul, drawing fierce criticism from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ultranationalist allies days before parliament was set to vote on a key piece of legislation.

A parliamentary committee approved late Wednesday a bill that would curtail the Supreme Court's oversight powers by removing its ability to strike down decisions it deems "unreasonable." The standard is meant as a safeguard to protect against corruption and improper appointments of unqualified people.

The bill, which is scheduled for a final vote in parliament next week, is one of several keystone pieces of the Netanyahu government's judicial overhaul plan.


With pressure mounting on him to freeze the plan, Netanyahu scheduled a prime-time news conference late Thursday.

He and his allies say the plan is needed to curb what they consider excessive powers of unelected judges. Critics of the plan say the legislation will concentrate power in the hands of Netanyahu and his allies and undermine the country’s system of checks and balance. They also say Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, has a conflict of interest.

The proposal has bitterly divided the Israeli public and attracted appeals from U.S. President Joe Biden for Netanyahu to slow down and wait for a broad national consensus before passing any legislation.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have joined mass protests against the overhaul since it was proposed in January. Business leaders have said the plan will drive international investors away, and scores of reservists in key military units, including fighter pilots, commandos and cyberwar officers, have threatened to stop reporting for duty.

Israeli leaders and military commanders have expressed growing concern, saying the refusals to serve could hurt the country's security. Reservists, whose service is voluntary, make up the backbone of Israel's military.

israeli ex security czar backs reservist protest against netanyahu judicial reform plan

Israeli military reservists protest judicial reforms championed by conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Speaking to Army Radio on Thursday, Nadav Argaman, a former head of the Shin Bet internal security agency, leveled withering criticism at Netanyahu, saying he appears committed to preserving his ruling coalition of ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties, not the state itself, and said he was "very worried that we’re on the verge of a civil war."

"We need to stop this legislation by any means," he said, voicing support for reservists who "are very concerned and fearful for the security of the state of Israel."

For reservists, he said, "until now defending Israel was done on the battlefield. From their perspective, as of today, defending Israel means preserving Israeli democracy."

Argaman was appointed head of the Shin Bet by Netanyahu in 2016 and stepped down in 2021.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a key Netanyahu ally and ultranationalist settler, tweeted that Argaman had "given himself over to idiotic brainwashing."


The judicial overhaul plan, which was announced shortly after Netanyahu took office as prime minister following November's parliamentary elections — Israel's fifth in under four years — has divided an already highly polarized country.

Netanyahu froze the legislation in March following weeks of demonstrations and mounting labor strikes, but rebooted the judicial overhaul in recent weeks after talks seeking compromise with opposition lawmakers failed.

Recent days have seen growing calls by military reservists to refuse to serve if the legislation passes.

Critics say removing the reasonability standard would allow the government to appoint unqualified cronies to important positions without oversight. They also say that it could clear the way for Netanyahu to fire the current attorney general — seen by supporters as a bulwark against the overhaul plan — or appoint legal officials who could ease his way out of the corruption charges he is facing in an ongoing trial.

Netanyahu now heads the country's most ultranationalist and religiously conservative government in Israel's 75-year history.

via FoxNews July 20th 2023