Crowds mobbed the streets of Tel Aviv late Sunday night after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister for opposing a planned judicial overhaul.
Protest in Israel
Protesters were seen waving Israeli flags and chanting “democracia” as they blocked streets and bridges, including the Ayalon Highway.
On Tel Aviv’s major highway, protesters started several fires that sent foul-smelling, black smoke into the air and partially obscured some of the city’s famous skyscrapers. Protests died down at 2 a.m. local time in Tel Aviv, but live footage from the scene showed security forces firing water cannons at those who remained.
Israel’s political crisis
Yoav Gallant was fired from Netanyahu’s office in a one-line statement on Sunday after becoming the first cabinet member to call for a pause on controversial plans to revamp the country’s judicial process.
Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, has been fired, according to a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Controversial judicial reform
The proposals would give the government control over the appointment of judges, and parliament would gain the ability to overturn Supreme Court decisions.
The changes, according to the government, are necessary to control the Supreme Court, which they view as exclusive, elitist, and no longer speaking for the Israeli people.
Why did Netanyahu suspend Gallant?
While Netanyahu was away on an official visit to the United Kingdom on Saturday night, Gallant made his case for a stop to judicial reforms in a speech. In opposition to the plans, which detractors claim will erode the judiciary’s independence, some military reservists have vowed to resign from their positions. Gallant warned that moving forward with the proposals could jeopardize Israel’s security.
What was the President’s reaction?
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog urged Netanyahu and his administration to immediately halt the plans in a Facebook post on Monday, warning that “the eyes of the whole world are on you.”
“A sense of dread pervades the entire country. Security, the economy, and society are all under threat, according to Herzog’s statement.
“All of Israel’s eyes are on you. All Jewish eyes are on you. The entire world’s attention is focused on you. For the sake of Israeli unity and committed responsibility, I strongly urge you to cease the legislative process immediately.”
Another Prominent Leader’s Reaction
All three of Netanyahu’s Likud party’s ministers—Economy Minister Nir Barkat, Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar, and Diaspora Affairs and Social Equality Minister Amichai Chikli—suggested that the legislation be stopped as protesters gathered until the early hours of Monday morning.
Former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat suggested Netanyahu “pause and recalculate” his revamp strategy, warning that it has pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
As a result of Netanyahu’s decision to fire Gallant, Israel’s Consul General in New York, Asaf Zamir, resigned.
Zamir described Netanyahu’s actions as a “dangerous decision” in his resignation letter, which he posted on Twitter. He also stated that he had “become greatly worried with the initiatives of the new administration, and in specific, the judicial reform it is leading.”
Gallant’s reaction after dismissal from the post
Gallant cited the refusal of some Israeli Defense Forces reserve members to train in protest at the government’s plans when he claimed that the pause was necessary “for the security of Israel” in his speech on Saturday.
“The mission of my life has always been, and always will be, to ensure the security of the State of Israel,” Gallant stated in a tweet on Sunday following his dismissal.
Opponents argue that the plans jeopardize the foundations of Israeli democracy.
Universities in Israel have announced that they will go on strike beginning Monday, and the country’s largest labor union and business leaders have stated that they will hold a press conference on Monday morning. Histadrut, the labor union, promised a dramatic press conference with business leaders at 11 a.m. (4 a.m. ET).