Netanyahu fires defense minister
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, on Sunday, less than a day after Gallant attempted to put the brakes on the PM’s controversial effort to overhaul the nation’s judiciary system. Massive protests soon broke out condemning the move.
Gallant was the first in Netanyahu’s cabinet to break ranks with the PM over his full-speed-ahead proposal to seize greater control over the selection of Supreme Court justices and restrict the court’s power over the Knesset. The plan has been condemned both internationally and domestically, driving a wedge between the PM’s office and the military.
The defense minister warned that the unrest over the PM’s planned power-grab was putting Israel’s national security at risk, and that therefore he could not support it. “The rift within our society is widening and penetrating the Israeli Defense Forces,” causing “a clear and immediate and tangible danger to the security of the state,” Gallant declared in a televised speech on Saturday. “I shall not be a party to this.”
Netanyahu announced his dismissal less than 24 hours later in a one-line statement on Sunday, setting off a firestorm of protest. Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets of Jerusalem to denounce what is widely perceived as unconscionable overreach by the PM. Protesters blocked Tel Aviv’s Ayalon highway in both directions, while others gathered outside the homes of Likud Party MKs and other high-ranking officials.
A group of universities announced a general strike, while the director general of the Defense Ministry cut short his trip to the US to return home. Israel’s consul general in New York, Asaf Zamir, announced his resignation via Twitter, vowing to “join the fight for Israel’s future to ensure it remains a beacon of democracy and freedom in the world.”
Gallant, a former naval commando, had repeatedly warned his boss that many in the IDF had threatened to walk off the job, temporarily or permanently, should his proposal become law. While the military has not revealed exact statistics on how many fewer reservists reported for duty this month compared to previous months, it confirmed receiving a letter from 200 reserve pilots announcing they would sit out the next two weeks of duty in protest of Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.Gen. Herzi Halevi had even admitted reservists were stretched thin enough that it might have to pare back certain operations, government officials told the New York Times earlier this week – a possibility that would be unthinkable to the belligerent PM.
Former PM Ehud Barak spoke out against his successor on Sunday, predicting the protests within the IDF reservists’ ranks would grow and calling on Netanyahu to step down. Firing Gallant “shows that he has lost his judgment and his capacity to assess reality,” Barak said.