Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday night, after the latter called for a halt to the government’s judicial reform initiative in a televised address to the nation.
The premier is believed to be considering appointing Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, a former Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief, as the country’s next top defense official.
Gallant on Saturday called for a temporary halt to the reform program, saying the societal divide on display across the country amid mass demonstrations has found its way into the Israel Defense Forces as an increasing number of reservists threaten to refuse to report for duty.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who called for Gallant to be fired, responded to the development on Sunday by writing on Twitter: “Reform now!”
Opposition leader Yair Lapid described Netanyahu as a “danger” and Gallant’s dismissal as “a new low for an anti-Zionist government harming national security.”
Members of the IDF General Staff warned last week that if the phenomenon of reservists refusing to serve grows, the military’s operational capabilities could be impaired within a month.
Netanyahu on Thursday night addressed the nation amid mass civil disobedience aimed at thwarting the judicial reforms, saying that he would intervene to make them more balanced but adding that a law changing the makeup of the committee that selects justices would be passed this week as planned.
“I say this evening: I believe that it is possible to enact a reform that will satisfy both sides, a reform that will restore the proper balance between the authorities and, on the other hand, safeguard, and I say beyond that, not just safeguard but ensure the individual rights of every citizen in the country,” said Netanyahu.
“Now, I would like to answer a main concern that has been raised by the other side. I know that there is concern over a sweeping and unrestricted ‘override clause’ that would lead to a small Knesset majority being able to invalidate any court decision. I want to tell you clearly—this will not happen.
“On the contrary, we intend, and I intend, to anchor in law individual rights. We will ensure the basic rights of every Israeli citizen—Jews and non-Jews, secular and religious, women, the LGBTQ sector, everyone—without exception. All legislation will be bound by these principles. I am not saying this in the abstract; we intend to submit explicit legislation on this issue. I will personally see to it,” continued the premier.
“Unfortunately, until today, my hands have been tied. We reached the absurdity that if I had entered [into the public debate on] this event, as my position requires, they threatened to compel me to take a leave of absence, which would nullify the results of the election and the will of millions of citizens. This is an absurdity that cannot be in a proper democracy.
“Therefore, this evening, I announce to you, my friends, citizens of Israel, no more. I am entering the arena. I am laying aside any other consideration, for our people, and for our country, I will do everything in my power to find a solution,” said Netanyahu.