Netanyahu sacks defense minister after calling for suspension of judicial reform
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sacked his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after calling for a halt to a judicial overhaul, warning that it poses a “immediate dangerto national security.
The fight over the bitterly contested proposals, which would significantly weaken the powers of the judiciary, has sparked the biggest wave of protests in Israel in more than a decade and plunged the country into a deep political crisis.
On Saturday, Gallant became the most senior official in Netanyahu’s hardline government to call for a halt to the overhaul, warning that the polarization it had caused was undermining the military. Thousands of reservists threatened not to show up for the training to protest the plans.
Netanyahu’s office said in a brief statement late Sunday that it had decided to fire Gallant, without giving further details. Netanyahu then wrote on Twitter: “We must stand firm against anyone who refuses to serve.”
Gallant, a former Israeli army officer, said the country’s security “has always been and always will be my life’s mission.”
Gallant’s decision to break ranks and call for a halt to the overhaul underscored simmering tensions within the coalition over the proposed changes, which will give the government and its allies greater control over the appointment of judges and will limit the power of the highest court to strike down laws.
Supporters say the changes are needed to rein in an activist justice system that has pushed a leftist partisan agenda. But critics see the overhaul as a fundamental threat to Israel’s checks and balances that will eviscerate minority protections, foster corruption and hurt the economy.
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have joined protests against the plans, with the latest round on Saturday evening taking place in more than 100 locations across the country. Organizers called for another protest in Tel Aviv on Sunday night in response to Gallant’s dismissal.
Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid, the biggest opposition group, called Gallant’s sacking a “new low” for a “government that harms national security and ignores the warning of all security officials” .
“Netanyahu can fire Gallant, but he can’t fire reality and he can’t fire the people of Israel who resist the madness of the coalition,” he wrote on Twitter.
However, extremists in Netanyahu’s coalition celebrated. Itamar Ben-Gvir, the ultra-nationalist national security minister who called for Gallant’s removal after his statement on Saturday, praised Netanyahu.
“Anyone who capitulates to military objectors cannot remain in office for even a moment,” Ben-Gvir said.
Netanyahu said on Thursday that the government would go forward with the overhaul, and bring in the amendment that gives him greater control over judicial appointments in parliament for a final vote this week.
Two other MKs from Netanyahu’s coalition, Yuli Edelstein and David Bitan, backed Gallant’s call for a postponement on Saturday. But to block the legislation, several coalition members would have to vote against it. The government controls 64 seats out of the 120 seats in the Israeli parliament.