A day after urging the Israeli leader to end a planned judicial overhaul that has sharply split the nation and stoked rising resentment within the military ranks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked his defense minister on Sunday.
The action suggested that Netanyahu will proceed with the makeover plan this week despite the large demonstrations it has sparked, the ire of industry and military leaders, and the misgivings of Israel’s friends. Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, was the first prominent Likud party official to criticize the proposal.
Netanyahu’s staff issued a brief statement declaring that the prime minister had fired Gallant. “We must all stand firm against refusal,” Netanyahu later tweeted.
The choice was made less than a day after Gallant, a former senior general, requested that the contentious legislation be put on hold until after next month’s Independence Day vacations, citing the upheaval the proposal has caused among military personnel.
On Sunday, the Likud immediately closed ranks, allowing Gallant to be fired despite numerous other party members who have said they might do the same.
Netanyahu’s minister of public diplomacy, Galit Distal Atbaryan, claimed that the Israeli leader called Gallant into his office and informed him that “he doesn’t have any faith in him longer and that’s why he’s sacked.”
Soon after the news, Gallant tweeted, “the security of the state of Israel always has been and always will remain my life objective.”
According to opposition leader Yair Lapid, Gallant’s firing is a “new low for the anti-Zionist government that threatens national security and defies warnings of all defense authorities.”
Lapid claimed on Twitter that “Israel’s prime minister is a threat to the security of the state of Israel.”
He is anticipated to be replaced by Avi Dichter, a former Shin Bet security agency chief. Dichter allegedly considered joining Gallant, but on Sunday, he declared his support for the prime minister.
Responding to Netanyahu’s removal of his defense minister, protest organizers called for an unplanned gathering outside Tel Aviv’s military headquarters.
According to Netanyahu’s administration, the core of the reform, a law giving the ruling coalition final say over all judicial appointments, will be voted on by the Knesset this week.
Additionally, it intends to limit judicial scrutiny of laws and adopt legislation that would give parliament the power to repeal Supreme Court rulings with a simple majority.
According to Netanyahu and his backers, the idea will rebalance the judicial and executive institutions and restrain what they see as an interventionist court with liberal tendencies.
Yet, detractors claim that the collection of laws will eliminate the democratic checks and balances in Israel and consolidate power in the hands of the ruling coalition.
During the past three months, tens of thousands of people have demonstrated against the idea in public.
Former top security officers have spoken out against the idea, leaders of Israel’s booming high-tech sector have claimed the reforms will frighten away investors, and important allies like the United States and Germany have expressed reservations.
Even the Israeli army, the most well-liked and revered institution in Israel’s Jewish majority, has seen a rise in displeasure in recent weeks. Many Israeli reservists, including fighter pilots, have recently threatened to leave their voluntary service.