Netanyahu Fires Defense Chief Who Urged Halt to Judicial Plan

Civil opposition threatens national security, Yoav Gallant says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2023 12:00 PM CDT
Updated Mar 26, 2023 3:00 PM CDT
Israel’s Defense Minister Takes Stand on Judiciary Changes
Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant speaks during an appearance with his US counterpart, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, at Ben Gurion International Airport on March 9.   (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

With hundreds of thousands of people on the streets regularly protesting his plan to overhaul Israel's judiciary, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear Sunday night that he won't brook dissent from within. One day after his defense minister urged holding up on the change in a televised speech, saying the widespread opposition is threatening national security, he was fired. Netanyahu called in Yoav Gallant for a meeting on Sunday evening, Axios reports, and told him he was working against the government. "The prime minister told Gallant that he lost confidence in him," an aide to Netanyahu said. "Gallant didn't coordinate his speech with the Prime Minister and sabotaged the efforts to reach a solution."

Gallant tweeted shortly after the announcement that "the security of the state of Israel always was and will always remain my life mission," per the AP. Opposition leader Yair Lapid said the firing is a "new low for the anti-Zionist government that harms national security and ignores warnings of all defense officials." On Twitter, Lapid posted, "The prime minister of Israel is a threat to the security of the state of Israel." Gallant was the first minister to speak out against the proposal that has led to weeks of civil unrest, per the New York Times.

"The rift within our society is widening and penetrating the Israel Defense Forces," Gallant told the nation, adding: "This is a clear and immediate and tangible danger to the security of the state. I shall not be a party to this." The effect on the military includes thousands of reserve soldiers leaving service or saying they won't report for volunteer duty if the Netanyahu's plan proceeds. Many have signed petitions saying that won't serve under a "dictatorship," per the Wall Street Journal. The military's chief of staff said some operations may have to be cut back because of the dwindling number of reservists reporting this month.

story continues below

Gallant had called for holding up the overhaul until at least next month. Otherwise, Israel is looking at a contentious week ahead. Parliament is due to hold an initial vote on the overhaul as warnings of more political violence intensify; protesters returned to the streets Saturday night for the 12th straight weekend, and there were clashes with police. Israeli media estimated that 3% of the population, about 300,000 people, turned out. Postponing the issue, which Israel's president also had urged, might not cool the opposition: A group coordinating protests said they won't stop unless Netanyahu's plan is dropped completely. The prime minister did not immediately comment on Gallant's speech. (More Israel stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.