Mar 25, 2023 - World

Israeli defense minister calls on Bibi to stop judicial overhaul legislation

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Photo: Gil Cohen-MagenAFP via Getty

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called for the immediate suspension of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial overhaul legislation, saying it has "created an internal rift that poses a clear and immediate threat for Israel's national security."

Why it matters: Gallant, a member of Netanyahu's Likud party, is the most senior minister to publicly call for the suspension of the legislation. A vote on the first part of the judicial overhaul plan is expected on Wednesday.

  • Gallant had previously warned Netanyahu that moving forward with the judicial overhaul could lead to more protests among IDF reservists and even inside the regular army, a defense minister aide told Axios. Netanyahu has received similar warnings from the chiefs of the IDF and the Shin Bet domestic security agency.

Catch up quick: The judicial overhaul plan, presented by the most right-wing government in Israel's history, has deepened political divisions in Israel and prompted mass protests, including on Saturday.

  • The leaders of some of Israel's closest allies, including President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have expressed concerns about what the plan to weaken Israel's Supreme Court would mean for the country's democracy.
  • The first part of the plan that is expected to be voted on next week would give the governing coalition an automatic majority on the panel that appoints Supreme Court judges.

What he's saying: Gallant said in a televised speech that his conversations with soldiers and senior officers in the military had convinced him there was “a clear and immediate danger to the security" of Israel. "I will not allow this to happen," he said.

  • “The events that are happening in Israeli society don’t stay outside of the military, Gallant added. "I heard anger, pain and disappointment from everywhere — more than I have ever witnessed. I saw how our source of power was waning."
  • The defense minister said he supports judicial reform but stressed that such fundamental changes must be made through an inclusive national dialogue.
  • He called for the legislation to be suspended until after Israel's Independence Day on April 25. "We also need to stop the demonstrations and reach out for a dialogue," Gallant said.

Behind the scenes: Gallant had wanted to give his speech on Thursday but backed down at the last minute after an urgent meeting with Netanyahu.

  • During the meeting, Gallant warned Netanyahu about what moving forward with the legislation may mean for the military, according to one of Gallant's aides.
  • The prime minister asked Gallant to give him more time to find a solution, the aide said. But shortly after their meeting, the prime minister doubled down on his intention to hold the final vote on the first part of the judicial plan within days.
  • Gallant's aides said on Friday that he was frustrated with Netanyahu's address and decided to proceed with his own speech on Saturday.

Between the lines: As defense minister, Gallant speaks on behalf of Israel's highly influential and widely respected security establishment.

  • It would be very hard for any prime minister in Israel to go against the position of his defense minister and the security establishment.

The big picture: The opposition, as well as three members of Netanyahu's Likud party, welcomed Gallant’s speech.

  • But the coalition whip and several other Likud lawmakers attacked Gallant and called for him to resign.
  • Netanyahu, who spent the weekend in London, has not to commented on Gallant’s speech.

What to watch: If a vote on the first part of the judicial overhaul takes place on Wednesday and Gallant and the three Likud members who welcomed his speech oppose the legislation, Netanyahu's coalition will be unable to reach the required majority to pass it.

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