Israel’s defense minister is calling on the government to suspend legislation on controversial changes to the judicial system, saying the bitter dispute over the measures poses an “immediate and tangible danger to state security”.
Yoav Gallant’s appeal comes after three months of weekly mass protests that saw more than half a million people take to the streets to oppose reforms that critics say will undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Gallant became the first ally in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition to break ranks on Saturday, calling for an immediate end to the far-right government’s controversial plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary.
In a televised address, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant expressed concern over the unrest within the Israeli military which he said poses a threat to the country’s security. Citing the need for dialogue with the opposition, Gallant has asked Netanyahu’s coalition to wait until parliament reconvenes after the holidays next month before moving forward with his divisive plan to weaken the court. Supreme.
“For the sake of Israel’s security, for the sake of our sons and daughters, the legislative process must be stopped right now,” said Gallant, a senior official in Netanyahu’s Likud party.
The government’s plan to increase its control over the judiciary has sparked the largest protest movement in Israel’s history and triggered a major national crisis, including warnings by the president of civil war.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets as they have every week since the beginning of the year, in many cases blockading parts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It has also angered Israel’s closest allies by testing its ties to the United States.
Police hurled water cannons at masses of protesters who booed and waved Israeli flags as they marched along Tel Aviv’s Ayalon highway on Saturday night. “Shame! Shame!” they sang in Hebrew. As the protesters advanced, the mounted officers violently rammed the crowd. “Didn’t the Jewish People Suffer Enough?” read a protester’s placard.
The judicial proposal has drawn mounting criticism from across Israeli society, including former prime ministers and defense officials and high-tech business leaders.
“The events unfolding in Israeli society do not spare the Israel Defense Forces: feelings of anger, pain and disappointment arise on all sides, with an intensity I have never encountered before,” said Gallant. “I see how the source of our strength is being eroded.”
In security-oriented Israel, the unrest has raised concerns about the stability of the Israeli military as it maintains its 55-year occupation of the West Bank and faces threats from Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and its archenemy Iran.
Violence in both Israel and the occupied West Bank has increased in recent weeks to levels not seen in years.
“This is a clear, immediate and tangible danger to state security,” Gallant said, referring to the judicial plans. “I will not take part in this.”
Gallant stopped short of saying what he would do if Netanyahu ignored his request. But his loud declaration of concern for the polarized nation marked the first crack in Netanyahu’s coalition, the most right-wing and religiously conservative government in Israel’s history.
Gallant has previously met with Netanyahu, reportedly to express concern that protests by Israeli reservists and other security forces were damaging Israel’s international image and deterrent power. After the meeting, Netanyahu nonetheless announced that he would be directly involved in the review, declaring his hands “untied”.
Attorney General of Israel
Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals involving wealthy associates and powerful media moguls. He denies the wrongdoing and fires
Supporters of the judicial overhaul — which includes plans to increase coalition control over judicial appointments and decrease the Supreme Court’s ability to overrule laws passed by Parliament — say it will restore power to elected lawmakers and make courts less interventionist. Critics say the move upends Israel’s system of checks and balances and pushes it towards autocracy.
Despite the backlash, Netanyahu has rejected offers of compromise, including from the mainly ceremonial Israeli president earlier this month.