More than a thousand pilots and other personnel in Israel’s air force reserve said on Friday they would stop reporting for duty if the government pushes ahead with a controversial plan next week to reduce judicial power without broader consensus.

In a joint letter released Friday, 1,142 Air Force reservists — including 235 fighter pilots, 98 transport aircraft, 89 helicopter pilots and 173 drone operators — said they would not serve if the government went ahead with its plan to reduce the ways in which the Supreme Court can overrule the government.

“Legislation that allows the government to act in an extremely unreasonable manner will harm the security of the State of Israel, cause a loss of confidence and a violation of my consent to continue to risk my life – and will lead, with deep sadness and lack of choice, to the suspension of my volunteer service in the reserves,” the letter said.

If such a large number of reservists follow through on their threat, defense officials said it could seriously affect the Air Force’s capacity and its operational readiness.

Israeli fighter forces are heavily dependent on reserve pilots who have regular civilian jobs but who volunteer for several days each month to train or participate in combat and surveillance missions.

The total number of professional and reservist pilots has never been stated by the Israeli Air Force. But officials say Israel’s regular strikes in Gaza and Syria, patrol missions over Israel, and surveillance missions over Lebanon and the occupied West Bank are often led by reserve pilots and drone operators. Many of them have more experience than those in the full-time forces. An Israeli strike against Iran would also rely heavily on reservists.

Even a short break from training could affect their flying ability, as it would take time for each pilot to regain combat-ready acuity.

The move reflects the deep social rifts that have been widened by the government’s sentencing plan.

In a vote next week, the government is trying to prevent the Supreme Court from overturning the national government by using the legal standard of “reasonableness,” a concept judges use to block ministerial appointments and contest planning decisions, among other measures.

The government and its supporters say the legislation will improve democracy by giving elected lawmakers more authority and allowing them to more easily implement the policies they were elected to implement. The court can still overrule the government using other legal measures.

“Israel will continue to be a democratic state,” Mr Netanyahu said in a speech on Thursday. “It will continue to be a liberal state.”

He also criticized reservists who tried to shape government policy by refusing to serve. “In a democracy, the military is subordinate to the government – it does not enforce the government,” he said. “When elements in the military try, with threats, to dictate policy to the government, that is unacceptable in any democracy.”

The opposition fears the legislation undermines the quality of Israeli democracy, removes a key check on government overreach and will allow the government — the most ultra-nationalist and ultra-conservative in Israeli history — to build a less pluralistic society.

Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

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