Back From War, These I.D.F. Soldiers Demand New Leadership

As the Israel-Hamas war drags into its eighth month, there are loud calls within Israel for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition to step aside. Among those demanding change are reservists in the Israel Defense Forces — back from the war and now in the streets. The New York Times spoke with three reservists from different political backgrounds to find out why.

Military service, which is mandatory for most Israeli citizens, has long brought together different sectors of society to serve side-by-side — an experience that has translated into political movements at other pivotal moments throughout the country’s history.

Motivated by a variety of issues — such as the return of the remaining hostages, ending the war, frustration with military draft rules that allow exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews, and a desire to lessen polarization — these reservists are united in calling for new leadership.

Exactly when and how Israel’s next elections will take place may be complicated, but opinion polls show that a majority of Israelis are eager for change.

Before the war, controversial plans to overhaul Israel’s judiciary proposed by the Netanyahu coalition, the most right-wing and religiously conservative administration in Israel’s history, led to months of massive street protests, dividing Israeli society. Brothers in Arms, a group of reservists who played a central role in the movement, asserted that the proposed changes were an assault on Israeli democracy and threatened to resign en masse from the Israeli military, a move that sent shockwaves through the country.

This particular round of activism has brought out groups who were vocal before the war, including Brothers in Arms, as well as new ones formed after October 7.

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