Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after he dramatically broke ranks and called for a pause in the government’s drive to overhaul Israel’s court system, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Sunday.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to remove Defense Minister Yoav Galant from his post,” the statement said.
The minister’s Saturday night speech – when Netanyahu was out of the country on an official visit to the United Kingdom – made him the first government minister to call for a halt in the controversial legislation that would weaken the independence of the courts.
Gallant is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party. His comments open a rift in Israel’s already delicately balanced coalition government that could mean the plans are unable to advance.
“The Prime Minister summoned Minister Gallant to his office and told him that he had lost confidence in him after he acted against the government and against the coalition while the Prime Minister was on a political visit abroad,” an official in the Prime Minister’s Office said.
“Minister Gallant did not coordinate his words with the Prime Minister in advance and thus sabotaged efforts to reach a solution.”
In his speech on Saturday, Gallant said the pause was needed “for the security of Israel.”
“Any manifestation of refusal that eats away at the strength of the IDF and harms the security system should be stopped immediately,” Gallant said, a reference to the refusal of some Israel Defense Forces reservists to train in protest at the government plans.
Gallant reiterated that sentiment in a tweet on Sunday after his dismissal: “The security of the State of Israel has always been and will always remain the mission of my life.”
As he delivered his speech on Saturday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators were out across the country protesting against the plans for the 12th week in a row.
Under the proposals, the government would have control over the appointment of judges, and parliament would gain the power to override Supreme Court decisions.