Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked his defense minister on Sunday after he broke ranks with the government by asking on Saturday for a month-long break in the government’s controversial judicial reform process. .
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to remove Defense Minister Yoav Galant,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
In a speech on Saturday night, Galant, a strong ally of Netanyahu and who belongs to the same party as the premier, the conservative Likud, said in a speech that “we must stop the legislative process” for a month, due to the polarization it has caused, on the same day that 200,000 people took to the streets of Tel Aviv to protest against the reform.
Since the Netanyahu government, one of the most right-wing in Israel’s history, presented, in January, a project for legal reform of the judiciary, the country has been divided and there are demonstrations against the measure every week.
The reform seeks to increase the power of elected officials to the detriment of the judiciary and reduce the power of the Supreme Court, and has been questioned by Israel’s main allies, such as the United States.
Critics of the initiative warn that it jeopardizes the democratic character of the State of Israel.
Netanyahu and his ultra-Orthodox far-right allies defend it, citing the need to balance power between elected politicians and the Supreme Court, which they consider to be politicized.
“The growing social divide has reached the (army) and security agencies. It is a clear, immediate and tangible threat to social security,” said Galant.
“I am committed to the values of Likud and to putting the State of Israel above all else (…), but major changes at the national level must be made through deliberations and dialogue,” Galant added in his speech.
– Protests and resignation –
Hours after the resignation was announced, the Israeli consul general in New York published his resignation letter on Twitter.
“The political situation in Israel has reached a critical point and I feel a deep responsibility and moral obligation to defend what is just”, tweeted the consul Asaf Zamir, who described Galant’s resignation as a “dangerous decision”, which “convinced me that that I could not continue representing this government”.
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters went to protest in the center of Tel Aviv, according to the police, and a crowd blocked the main road that crosses the city, Ayalon, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
With flags in the colors of Israel, blue and white, the protesters repeated slogans like “Out, Bibi!”, Netanyahu’s nickname.
Police said protesters in Tel Aviv set tires on fire late on Sunday.
Other spontaneous protests were held in front of the prime minister’s residence, in Jerusalem, as well as in other cities in the country, such as Haifa (north) and Beer Sheva (south), according to the local press.
Galant also called on protesters to suspend the demonstrations, warning of threats to the country’s security.
“Israel’s security has always been and will remain my life’s mission,” Galant tweeted on Sunday in reaction to his resignation.
The Israeli parliament is expected to vote this week on a key point of judicial reform, which will change the way judges are appointed.
“Netanyahu can fire Galant, but he cannot fire reality and he cannot fire the people of Israel, who are opposed to the coalition’s madness,” tweeted the leader of the opposition, former Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who the day before had praised the “courage” of the minister dismissed today.
“The Prime Minister of Israel is a threat to the security of Israel,” he wrote.
Galant is the first casualty sparked by the row over judicial reform, but other senior figures have voiced their concerns.
President Issac Herzog weeks ago expressed his dismay at the growing polarization in society and warned of the specter of a “genuine civil war”.
On Friday, Israel’s federal prosecutor, Gali Baharav-Miara, accused Netanyahu of “illegal” public intervention, following a television message the night before about the reform program.
In this televised message, Netanuahy promised to “responsibly push forward” the reforms and “put an end to the division” he has caused in the country.
But the opposition has rejected changes to the reform package to make it more acceptable, while protesters have announced a “week of national strike” against the measure.
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