- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who had broken ranks with the government and urged a halt to a highly contested plan to overhaul the judicial system.
- Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem shortly after the dismissal announcement, with opposition leaders accusing Netanyahu of crossing a red line and undermining national security.
- The crisis comes amidst Israel’s security establishment bracing for potential violence in the coming weeks as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan overlaps with the Jewish Passover and the Christian Easter celebration.
On March 26, 2023, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, causing an uproar across the country. Gallant had broken ranks with the government and urged a halt to a highly contested plan to overhaul the judicial system. Tens of thousands of protesters, many waving blue and white Israeli flags, took to the streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem shortly after the dismissal announcement.
Crisis in Netanyahu’s Nationalist-Religious Coalition
Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition has been plunged into crisis over the bitter divisions exposed by its flagship judicial overhaul plans. The coalition had taken office three months prior to the incident.
Opposition Leaders Accuse Netanyahu of Crossing a Red Line
“State security cannot be a card in the political game. Netanyahu crossed a red line tonight,” opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz said in a joint statement. They called on Netanyahu’s Likud party members not to have a hand in “the crushing of national security.”
Dismissal Announced Without a Replacement
In announcing Gallant’s dismissal, Netanyahu’s office did not name a replacement nor give any other details. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided this evening to dismiss Defence Minister Yoav Gallant,” it said.
Gallant’s Warning on Overhaul Plans
Netanyahu made the decision to sack Gallant after the former navy admiral warned on Saturday that the overhaul plans risked “a clear, immediate and tangible threat to the security of the state” and called for them to be halted. “At this time, for the sake of our country, I am willing to take any risk and pay any price,” Gallant said in his televised address.
Netanyahu’s Stand on Overhaul Project
Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges that he denies, has vowed to continue with a project he says is needed to rein in activist judges and restore the proper balance between an elected government and the judiciary. Earlier this month, President Isaac Herzog had warned that the country faced “disaster” unless a broader consensus could be reached on how to overhaul the judiciary.
Protests and Police Response
As protesters poured into the streets, police used water cannons to push them back from Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem. In contrast, in Tel Aviv, where hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets since the beginning of the year, protesters lighted a large bonfire on a main highway.
Security Concerns Amidst Political Turmoil
The crisis comes as Israel’s security establishment has been bracing for potential violence in the coming weeks as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan overlaps with the Jewish Passover and the Christian Easter celebration. Over the past year, Israeli forces have been conducting nearly daily raids in the occupied West Bank, killing more than 250 Palestinian fighters and civilians, while more than 40 Israelis and foreigners have been killed by Palestinian attackers.
Implications of Gallant’s Removal
Gallant became the most senior member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party to say he would not support the judicial overhaul, saying protests that have included growing numbers of military reservists are also affecting regular forces and undermining national security. In recent weeks, senior Finance Ministry officials have warned of an economic backlash, and business leaders have sounded the alarm for their companies future. Adding to the pressure, the head of the Histadrut labor federation, the umbrella organization for hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, said he was “astonished” by Gallant’s removal and promised a “dramatic” announcement on Monday.
On March 26, 2023, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, causing tens of thousands of protesters to take to the streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Gallant had broken ranks with the government and urged a halt to a highly contested plan to overhaul the judicial system. Opposition leaders accused Netanyahu of undermining national security, and the crisis comes amidst Israel’s security establishment bracing for potential violence during the overlapping religious holidays. The dismissal has plunged Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition into crisis and raised concerns about the implications for the country’s economic and political stability.