Thursday afternoon, News12 reporter Amit Segal tweeted that Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was planning to convene a press conference at 7:30 where he would demand that the judicial reform legislation be stopped, citing the deep impact of the legislation on the IDF’s ability to retain insubordinate reservists.
In a tense phone call Thursday afternoon, Gallant presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu information suggesting the legislation may cause damage to the viability of the IDF. The IDF Chief of Staff and the head of the Shin Bet also presented Netanyahu with data on the unrest in the army. Netanyahu and the Chief of Staff had met earlier and Herzi Halevi warned about the consequences of the legislation.
Netanyahu was also aware that Gallant had spoken several times in the previous 24 hours to National Camp Chairman MK Benny Gantz and also tried to persuade several coalition members to support him in demanding a stop to the legislation.
In the end, the PM ordered his defense minister to stay away from the microphones and spoke to the nation himself instead. The key paragraph in his speech was (PM Benjamin Netanyahu Addresses the Nation on Judicial Reform): “This evening, I met with several ministers, including the defense minister. I heard his concerns about the implications of the situation on our national security. I am taking everything into account. At the same time, I must also repeat that there is no place for refusal to serve. Refusal to serve endangers our national security and the personal security of every one of us; there is also no justification for refusing to serve.”
This was the PM’s next to last paragraph, and he made no bones about how he felt about insubordination: it is dangerous and, presumably, be dealt with harshly.
Avishai Ivri noted in Makor Rishon on Friday: “In practice, we are now experiencing a quiet military coup.
The heads of the armed forces did not lead battalions of soldiers to a physical siege of the government as is customary in events of this type, but the messages they sent constitute a declaration of readiness for such a blockade, and … there is no difference between willingness and an actual blockade.”
Ivri pointed out that the heads of the three security services without which a coup d’etat cannot succeed––police, military, and clandestine police––kept mum for two months while the legally elected government was under attacks that included assaults on the services under their command. The commander of the air force who decided to fire a reserve pilot who declared insubordination and encouraged others in the service to follow withdrew his decision and the pilot was reinstated the next day – according to him without having to apologize.
The rest of the senior commanders took their cues from that incident. Police Chief Kobi Shabtai declared his loyalty to the Attorney General after she had nullified––with no legal ground––the ousting of the Tel Aviv district police chief. He declared that the dismissal was frozen as the AG had instructed, even though she did not have the authority to order the freeze.
And IDF Chief of Staff Halevi, according to Kan 11 News, told Netanyahu in a meeting that the army had a red line it would not cross, and the government must stop the judicial reform legislation “before we get there.”
Folks, this was a clear threat by the head of the army against the top elected official in the country, and the fact that Netanyahu has not fired Halevi (whom he inherited from former Defense Minister Benny Gantz) is worrisome.
The same goes for the firing of AG Gali Baharav-Miara, and Police Commissioner Shabtai. It’s what David Ben Gurion would have done.
During the 1948-49 War of Liberation, Prime Minister Ben Gurion ordered the dismantling of the Palmach, the legendary armed wing of the Hagana underground since 1941. He was accused of playing politics (the Palmach was comprised of many members of two competing socialist parties), but Ben Gurion insisted that the fledgling state must have a unified army, and no more militias. When IDF officers, including Yitzhak Rabin and Yigal Alon, attended a ceremony commemorating the Palmach, they faced martial court.
Netanyahu reflected Ben Gurion’s no-nonsense approach to the supremacy of government over its subservient agencies when he declared Thursday night: “Unfortunately, until today, my hands have been tied. We reached the absurdity that if I had entered this event, as my position requires, they threatened to compel me to take a leave of absence, which would nullify the results of the election and the will of millions of citizens. This is an absurdity that cannot be in a proper democracy.
“Therefore, this evening, I announce to you, my friends, citizens of Israel, no more. I am entering the arena. I am laying aside any other consideration, for our people, and for our country, I will do everything in my power to find a solution.”
And that’s what Ben Gurion would have done.