On Sunday night, tens of thousands of Israelis spontaneously took to the streets in towns around the country in an outpouring of rage after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly sacked his defense minister for opposing the Israeli leader’s plan to revamp the judiciary.
Police clashed with demonstrators gathered outside Netanyahu’s private residence in Jerusalem, while protesters stopped a significant road in Tel Aviv and built a sizable bonfire.
The upheaval exacerbated a months-long crisis over Netanyahu’s proposal to reorganize the court, which has provoked widespread protests, scared corporate executives and former security commanders, and garnered concern from the United States and other key allies.
The defense minister, Yoav Gallant, was fired by Netanyahu, who sent a message that the makeover plan would move through this week. Gallant was the first senior Likud party official to publicly criticize it, claiming that the party’s severe disagreements risked weakening the military.
Netanyahu’s office issued a brief statement late on Sunday confirming that the prime minister has fired Gallant. “We must all stand firm against refusal,” Netanyahu later tweeted.
Following Netanyahu’s statement, tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in protest, closing Tel Aviv’s main thoroughfare, covering the Ayalon highway in a sea of blue-and-white Israeli flags, and building a sizable bonfire in the center of the road.
There were protests in Beersheba, Haifa, and Jerusalem, where a large crowd assembled in front of Netanyahu’s home. Officers clashed with demonstrators while shooting water cannons into the crowd.
Inon Aizik, 27, described the court reform as “a rapid legislative blitz” and claimed he came to protest outside Netanyahu’s private residence in downtown Jerusalem because “terrible things are occurring in this country.”
Netanyahu decided less than a day after retired senior general Gallant requested a hold on the contentious legislation until after the next month’s Independence Day celebrations. Gallant cited the unrest in the military as his justification.
Gallant had expressed worries that social differences were weakening military morale and encouraging Israel’s foes. The source of our strength is eroding, Gallant observed.
On Sunday, the Likud quickly closed ranks, allowing Gallant to be fired, although several other party members have said they might follow him.
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.”
Gallant’s firing, according to opposition leader Yair Lapid, “harms national security and rejects concerns of all defense authorities.”
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.
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.
Additionally, they claim that Netanyahu, accused of corruption charges, has a conflict of interest.
The largest protests against the proposal in the nation’s 75-year history have seen tens of thousands of people go to the streets over the last three months.
Former top security officers have spoken out against the idea, leaders of Israel’s thriving 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.
JUST IN – Massive protest in Israel after PM Netanyahu fired defense minister who opposed judicial overhaul pic.twitter.com/q0Vdcm4U0m
— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) March 26, 2023