Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after he called for the judicial review to be halted, warning it posed an “immediate threat” to national security.
The battle over hotly contested proposals that would significantly weaken the judiciary’s powers 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 figure in Netanyahu’s hardline government to call for a halt to the renovation, warning that the polarization it would cause would undermine the military. Thousands of reservists have threatened not to report for training in protest against the plans.
Netanyahu’s office said in a brief statement Sunday night that it had decided to fire Gallant, without giving further details. Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbarjan said Netanyahu informed Gallan that he fired him because he “no longer trusted him.”
A spokesman for Gallant was not immediately available for comment.
Gallant’s decision to break ranks and call for an end to the review underlined tensions within the coalition over proposed changes that would give the government and its allies control over the appointment of judges and limit the supreme court’s power to overturn laws. .
Supporters say the changes are needed to rein in an activist judiciary that has pushed a partisan leftist agenda. But critics see the overhaul as a fundamental threat to Israel’s checks and balances, gutting minority protections, fostering corruption and damaging the economy.
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis joined the protest against the plans, with the latest round taking place on Saturday night at more than 100 locations across the country. Organizers announced another protest in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening in response to Gallant’s firing.
Yair Lapid, head of the largest opposition group, Yesh Atid, described Gallant’s dismissal as a “new low” for a government that “harms national security and ignores the warnings of all security officials.”
“Netanyahu can fire Gallan, but he can’t fire reality, and he can’t fire the people of Israel who stand up to the coalition’s insanity,” he tweeted.
However, hardliners in Netanyahu’s coalition celebrated. Ultranationalist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who called for Gallant’s ouster after his statement on Saturday, congratulated Netanyahu.
“Whoever surrenders to military opponents cannot stay in his post for a single moment,” Ben-Gvir said.
Netanyahu said on Thursday that the government would continue the review and submit the amendment to the law that would allow for control over judicial appointments to parliament for a final vote this week.
Two other members of Netanyahu’s coalition, Yuli Edelstein and David Bitan, supported Gallant’s call for a delay on Saturday. But to block the legislation, several members of the coalition would have to vote against it. In the 120-member Israeli parliament, the government occupies 64 seats.