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Israel air force reservists refuse to train in protest against judicial reforms

37 of 40 reserve pilots in elite air force unit join other striking military staff as government presses on with judiciary overhaul
An Israeli air force F-15I fighter jet lands at the Hazerim Air Force Base, in the Negev desert on 30 March 2009 (AFP)
An Israeli air force F-15I fighter jet lands at the Hazerim Air Force Base in the Negev desert on 30 March 2009 (AFP)

The majority of reserve pilots in an elite Israeli air force unit, 37 out of 40, have announced they will not participate in training or duty in protest against the government's controversial judicial overhaul

The fighter pilots from Israel's Air Force Squadron 69, who operate advanced F15 Thunderbird aircraft that serve as the military's long-range attack arm, informed their squadron commander and the heads of the air force of the decision on Sunday.

They said they would take part in a dialogue about judicial reforms outside of government offices instead of training.

Last week, reservists from the 8,200 intelligence unit also started strike action over the government's planned reforms to the judiciary. 

The cyber intelligence specialists wrote an open letter to the heads of Mossad, the Shin Bet and the Israeli army, saying that the reforms would harm "the moral and legal framework that enables us to develop and run the sensitive capabilities we operate".

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"In such a scenario...we will not be able to continue volunteering for service in the field of cyber operation," they wrote.

The judicial reforms would give parliament the power to override Supreme Court decisions through a simple majority vote and de facto control over court nominees, a role currently held by a mixed panel of politicians, judges and bar association members.

It would also limit the court's ability to overturn unconstitutional legislations.

An Israeli parliament committee on Wednesday approved the restriction of the Supreme Court's power to override laws, a significant part of the overhaul.

The bills will now go through three readings at the Knesset, or parliament, before a final vote.

Mass protests have taken place over the past few weeks against the government's plans.

Earlier this week, Israelis staged protests in Tel Aviv, blocking the highway into Jerusalem and disrupting traffic. Israeli media reported clashes between protesters and police, with several people arrested.

Police forces also used water cannon and stun grenades to disperse a crowd in the city centre.

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