Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday, a day after the minister called on the government to halt its contentious judiciary overhaul plan.
Netanyahu’s office issued a short statement saying he decided to remove Gallant from his position, without citing any reasons.
The move was largely seen as an indication that Netanyahu’s coalition tries to push through key reform bills that are expected to be brought to parliamentary votes later this week.
Gallant responded in a tweet that Israel’s security “has always been and will always remain the mission of my life.”
Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israeli national security minister and a staunch supporter of the reforms, welcomed the dismissal of Gallant.
Opposition leader and Chairman of the centrist Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid criticized Netanyahu for firing Gallant, warning swift moves to overhaul judicial system are a threat to Israel’s security.
In a televised speech on Saturday, Gallant called for dialogue with opposition parties, and postponement of government efforts of pushing ahead with the plan until the Knesset reconvenes from its Passover holiday on April 30.
He was the first minister in Netanyahu’s far-right cabinet to break ranks and call for a freeze of the divisive plan to weaken the Supreme Court.
Gallant, a senior minister with Netanyahu’s Likud party, said that the overhaul plan has triggered turmoil in the Israeli society and military that poses a threat to national security.
Gallant was followed by two other Likud lawmakers and a minister, who issued similar calls to freeze the controversial plan.
The plan has sparked massive protests across Israel, and growing discontent in the Israeli military, with thousands of reservists with elite units, including combat pilots, intelligence officers, and cyber experts, announcing in open letters over the past weeks that they will not show up for duty if the reforms are passed in parliament.
Netanyahu says the overhaul is needed in order to curb the “overly activist” Supreme Court.
Critics of the overhaul plan worry that the reform would undermine checks and balances within Israel’s political system, and that Netanyahu, who is on trial for fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes, is in a conflict of interests. ■