Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday, a day after Gallant called for a halt to the judicial reform that has spurred a national crisis.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided, this evening , to dismiss Defense Minister Yoav Gallant,” said a statement by Netanyahu’s office.
Gallant had become the first cabinet member to break with Netanyahu over the judicial overhaul a day earlier, saying in a public address that the controversial plan posed a security threat to Israel. Hundreds of reservists have refused to sign up for duty in protest, and thousands more have threatened to do the same if the bills are made into law.
Israeli military chief of staff Herzi Halevi has, in rare publicized statements, repeatedly warned that Israel’s relatively small standing army cannot operate without its reservists. Netanyahu waved aside those concerns and pressed the commanders to crack down on dissenters.
“We must all stand up strongly against those who refuse to serve in the military,” Netanyahu tweeted Sunday night, after his announcement dismissing Gallant.
Minutes after the announcement Sunday night, demonstrators began filling the streets throughout the country, hoisting Israeli flags and shouting, “De-mo-cra-cy!” Some demonstrators set fires on a major highway.
On Monday, Netanyahu’s far-right government plans to advance some of the most controversial elements of its legislative blitz, including one bill to allow Knesset members larger leverage in selecting Supreme Court judges and another to allow the return of Aryeh Deri, a Netanyahu ally and the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, whom the Supreme Court ruled was unfit to serve because of a “backlog of criminal convictions.”
Netanyahu did not announce a replacement for Gallant, which on Sunday night left the far-right Bezalel Smotrich as the only active minister in the Defense Ministry. Smotrich, a radical settler from the West Bank who in his youth was interrogated by Israel’s security forces for involvement in planning a terrorist attack, said this month that Israel should “wipe out” a Palestinian town and later, in a visit to France, that there was “no such thing” as the Palestinian people. [Continue reading…]