Mar 26, 2023 - World

Biden admin "deeply concerned" after Netanyahu sacks defense minister

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo:

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister on Sunday, a White House National Security Council spokesperson said.

Driving the news: The sacking of Yoav Gallant came a day after he broke with the governing coalition and called on Netanyahu to suspend his judicial overhaul legislation, saying the plan had "created an internal rift that poses a clear and immediate threat for Israel's national security."

  • Gallant, a member of Netanyahu's Likud party, was the most senior minister to publicly call for the suspension of the legislation.
  • He had warned Netanyahu that moving forward with the judicial overhaul could lead to more protests among IDF reservists and even inside the regular army. Netanyahu has received similar warnings from the chiefs of the IDF and the Shin Bet domestic security agency.
  • Netanyahu told Gallant on Sunday that he worked behind his back and against the government and the coalition with his speech on Saturday, a senior Netanyahu aide said in a briefing with reporters.

The big picture: 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 Sunday when thousands rallied against the government after Gallant was fired.

  • The leaders of some of Israel's closest allies, including President Biden, have expressed concerns about what the plan to weaken Israel's Supreme Court would mean for the country's democracy.

What they're saying: "We are deeply concerned by the ongoing developments in Israel, including the potential impact on military readiness raised by Minister Gallant, which further underscores the urgent need for compromise," the White House National Security Council spokesperson said on Sunday.

  • "As the president recently discussed with ... Netanyahu directly, democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.-Israel relationship," the spokesperson added.
  • "Democratic societies are strengthened by genuine checks and balances, and fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support. We continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible that is based on broad popular support."

What to watch: A vote on the first part of the judicial overhaul plan is expected on Wednesday.

  • That legislation would give the governing coalition an automatic majority on the panel that appoints Supreme Court judges.
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