Netanyahu Fires Defense Minister; Protests Arise

JERUSALEM (AP) — Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in various cities across the country Sunday night in a spontaneous outburst of outrage after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly fired his defense minister for opposing the plan. of judicial reform promoted by the president.

Protesters in Tel Aviv blocked a highway and lit large bonfires, and police scuffled with protesters who gathered outside Netanyahu’s private home in Jerusalem.


The turmoil deepened a crisis that has been going on for months over Netanyahu’s plan to reform the judiciary, a plan that has sparked massive protests, generated nervousness among businessmen and former security chiefs, and has been received with concern in the United States. United States and other allied countries.

The dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is an indication that the prime minister and his allies will push the reform plan with all their might this week. Gallant had been the first senior Likud party member to openly oppose him, arguing that the deep divisions he had caused in the country threatened to weaken the armed forces.

In a brief statement, Netanyahu’s office said Sunday night that the premier had fired Gallant. Netanyahu later tweeted: “We must all stand firm against rejection.”

Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in protest after Netanyahu’s announcement, blocking Ayalon Highway—Tel Aviv’s main transit thoroughfare—turning it into a blue-and-white sea of ​​Israeli flags and lighting a huge bonfire in the middle of it. .

There were demonstrations in Beersheba, Haifa and Jerusalem, where thousands of people gathered outside Netanyahu’s private residence. The police struggled with the protesters and used a water cannon against them. Thousands of people marched from the residence to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

Inon Aizik, 27, said he went to demonstrate in front of Netanyahu’s house because “bad things are happening in this country,” calling the judicial reform a “lightning-and-over” legislative operation.

Netanyahu sacked Gallant less than a day after the minister, a former general, called for a pause on the controversial bill until the Independence Day holiday next month, arguing there is great turmoil in the military. .

Gallant had expressed concern that divisions in society were affecting the morale of the military and emboldening Israel’s enemies. “I see how the source of our strength is being eroded,” he warned.

Although several other Likud members had indicated they might follow Gallant’s lead, the party quickly closed ranks on Sunday, making it easy for him to be fired.

Galit Distal Atbaryan, Netanyahu’s public diplomacy minister, said the prime minister summoned Gallant to his office and told him he “no longer has any faith in him and therefore you are fired.”

Shortly after the announcement, Gallant tweeted that “the security of the State of Israel has always been and always will be my life’s mission.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid said Gallant’s firing “harms national security and ignores the warnings of all defense officials.”

Israel’s Consul General in New York City, Assaf Zamir, has resigned in protest.

Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet security agency, is expected to replace Gallant. Dichter had reportedly indicated that he would take a position similar to Gallant’s, but instead he announced on Sunday that he would back Netanyahu.

The prime minister’s government is pushing for a parliamentary vote this week on a central point of the reform, a law that would give the ruling coalition the final say on all appointments to the judiciary. He also wants to pass laws that would give the Knesset the authority to overrule Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority and limit judicial review of laws.


Associated Press journalist Tia Goldenberg contributed from Tel Aviv.