Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alongside outgoing Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on 25 August 25 2019. (Photo Credit: YouTube/Screen capture via The Times of Israel)
On the evening of 26 December, about 1,197 Israeli air force officers sent a letter to the Israeli supreme court, demanding that it halt the formation of Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government in fear that it may “destroy Israel’s democracy.”
The letter from the air force officers was addressed to Chief Justice Esther Hayut, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, and many other officials who they believe to be capable of protecting Israel from the threat posed by the new coalition government.
“We come from all levels of society and all over the political spectrum, but what we all have in common today is the fear that the democratic state of Israel is in danger,” the officers claimed.
They added, “we were all ready to sacrifice our lives for the country throughout our years as combat pilots. After that, we continued to take part in building the state to the best of our ability.”
Notably, the letter was signed by the former chief of staff, Dan Halutz, former air force commander Avihu Ben-Nun, and the former chief of Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin.
Not long after their written demand to denounce the government, the current Israeli army chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, and US Jewish leaders issued a similar outcry.
In an exclusive report by Walla News, Barak Ravid revealed the details of a meeting in the US at the Israeli embassy on 7 December between representatives of senior Jewish organizations and Israeli officials.
Representatives of US Jewry expressed their discomfort with the new government and the possible damage it could cause to their ability to rally support for Israel among US citizens.
The meeting was chaired by the head of the Diaspora Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Shuli Davidovich, who was tasked by the Israeli government with investigating the “standpoint of the Jewish community regarding the political developments in Israel.”
Ravid added that the most pressing concerns focused on Jewish pluralism in Israel and the attempts by Netanyahu’s allies to alter the Law of Return and Conversion Law.
If they succeed in altering the definition of a Jew, this could severely impact American Jewry and discredit new converts from different Jewish schools.
Moreover, the representatives singled out Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, whom they regard as the pillars of the negative change awaiting Israel.
Smotrich himself issued a harsh-toned statement against the Israeli army chief of staff on 7 December, accusing him of creating strife between the political and military establishment.
“Whoever wants to keep the IDF unified as the army of the people needs to legislate a minimum ten-year cooling off period for chiefs of staff,” Smotrich said, ridiculing Kochavi for interfering in politics as an army commander and reminding him of the law.
Earlier on 22 December, Kochavi initiated a unique conversation with Netanyahu to inquire about the coalition government’s agreements and their impact on the army’s chain of command.
The outgoing chief of staff worries that Netanyahu has handed the army’s jurisdiction and power over to civilian officials, who are expected to misuse it.
The matter concerns Ben Gvir and Smotrich’s newly acquired power over the West Bank, as well as their right to appoint the chief military rabbi of the army.
“We are on a very slippery slope of the politicization process of civil-military relations or the military, generally speaking,” said the former Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Kobi Michael.
In response to this situation, Netanyahu promised to coordinate with the security establishment before taking any decision at the ministerial level, thought he would not promise anything, and has already attempted to distance himself from his coalition partners, according to Haaretz.