Amid growing civilian protests, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi says that army personnel walkouts could expand to the point of harming operational capabilities.

Military service is compulsory in Israel. However, in recent weeks, calls by reservists to refuse to serve have grown.
Military service is compulsory in Israel. However, in recent weeks, calls by reservists to refuse to serve have grown. (AA Archive)

Israel’s army chief has warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that personnel walkouts could spread in the military over government plans for judicial overhaul.

Lieutenant  General Herzi Halevi is understood to have told Netanyahu on Tuesday that recent threats from reservists, including fighter pilots and cyber security experts, not to report for duty in protest of the judicial reform plans could expand to the point of harming the army’s operational capabilities.

“I’m very worried by the spread of refusal to serve, and of the discussion about the refusal to serve. Already, this could harm the army’s operational capacity,” Halevi reportedly told Netanyahu.

Dozens of Israeli reservist pilots have refused to participate in a planned training session scheduled for March 8 in protest against the judicial reform plans. A similar threat was made by some 150 personnel of the army cyber forces over the plans.

On Monday, a group of former air force commanders sent a letter to Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant demanding a halt of the judicial reform plans.

Some reserve soldiers from different military units also issued statements that they would not participate in military training in protest of the reform.

READ MORE: Courting trouble: Why are Israelis opposing Netanyahu’s judicial

'Historic crisis'

Netanyahu responded to the threats by saying that their refusal to participate in military drills constituted an "existential" threat to Israel.

On Monday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said that Israel is living a “historic crisis” amid ongoing protests against the judicial overhaul.

The opposition also warned that the government’s proposed judicial change would lead to chaos in the country.

Israel has seen mass protests by thousands of Israelis over the past weeks against plans by Netanyahu’s government to radically overhaul the judiciary.

Proposed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the reform, if enacted, would be the most radical change in the system of government in Israel.

The planned change would severely limit the power of the Supreme Court of Justice, give the government the power to choose judges and end the appointment of legal advisers to ministries by the attorney general.

However, Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, insists that his judicial plan would enhance democracy.

READ MORE: Israel going through 'historic crisis' over judicial reforms: Herzog

Source: AA