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Netanyahu sacks defence minister who opposed judicial overhaul

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Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday (March 25) as part of the ongoing nationwide demonstrations against judicial changes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday dismissed Defence Minister Yoav Gallant a day after he broke ranks and urged the government to halt a highly-contested plan to overhaul the judicial system.

Gallant’s dismissal will likely fuel mass protests against the plan that have already rocked the nation for months. It came as Netanyahu was poised to ratify legislation that would tighten political control over judicial appointments.

That bill, and others that would limit Supreme Court powers to rule against government policy, have triggered warnings at home and abroad over Israel’s democratic health.

Gallant on Saturday 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 were also affecting regular forces and undermining national security.

“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.

The response came on Sunday night.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided this evening to dismiss Defence Minister Yoav Gallant,” Netanyahu’s office said. It did not name a replacement or give any other details.

Shortly after his dismissal, Gallant, 64, wrote on Twitter: “The state of Israel’s security has always been and will always be my life’s mission.”

Netanyahu, who is on trial on graft charges that he denies, says the judicial overhaul will balance out the branches of government.

Critics, who range from business leaders to former military officers as well as opposition parties, say the overhaul will weaken Israel’s democracy, hurt the economy and hand uncontrolled powers to the government of the day.

A key bill effectively giving Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition more control over the appointment of judges is expected to be brought for ratification this week in the Knesset, where he and his allies wield 64 out of 120 seats.

But how – or even whether – that as yet-unscheduled vote will proceed has been thrown into question by Likud dissenters.

Related Galleries:

An aerial view shows Israelis protesting, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist coalition government presses on with its judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, Israel March 25, 2023. REUTERS/Oren Alon/

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves Downing Street after meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London, Britain March 24, 2023. REUTERS/Toby Melville/

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