As a result of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s abrupt dismissal of his defense minister for opposing the Israeli leader’s proposed judicial reform, tens of thousands of Israelis stormed the streets of Israeli cities on Sunday night in a spontaneous outburst of rage.
Police clashed with demonstrators who gathered outside Netanyahu’s private residence in Jerusalem, while protesters blocked a major highway in Tel Aviv and set large bonfires on fire.
The unrest exacerbated a months-long crisis surrounding Netanyahu’s proposal to overhaul the judiciary, which has sparked widespread protests, alarmed business leaders and former security chiefs, and drawn concern from the United States and other close allies.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s dismissal by Netanyahu was a sign that the overhaul plan would move forward this week with the support of the prime minister’s allies. The first senior Likud member to speak out against it was Gallant, who claimed that the military was in danger of becoming weaker due to the party’s severe divisions.
Netanyahu’s office issued a brief statement late on Sunday confirming that the prime minister had fired Gallant. Later, Netanyahu tweeted, “We must all resist refusal with strength. “.
Following Netanyahu’s announcement, tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in protest, obstructing Tel Aviv’s main thoroughfare, covering the Ayalon highway in a sea of blue-and-white Israeli flags, and starting a massive bonfire in the middle of the road.
Cities around Israel
In Beersheba, Haifa, and Jerusalem, thousands of people demonstrated in front of Netanyahu’s private residence. The protesters and the police got into a fight, and a water cannon sprayed the crowd.
The 27-year-old Inon Aizik referred to the judicial reform as “a quick legislative blitz” when he stated that he came to demonstrate outside of Netanyahu’s private residence in central Jerusalem because “bad things are happening in this country.”
A former senior general named Gallant called for a pause in the contentious legislation until after the Independence Day holidays next month, citing the turmoil in the ranks of the military. Netanyahu’s decision came less than a day after Gallant made that request. Gallant had expressed concern that social divisions were harming military morale and giving Israel’s enemies strength. Gallant stated, “I see how the source of our strength is being eroded.”
On Sunday, the Likud quickly divided, paving the way for Gallant’s removal, despite the fact that other Likud members had indicated that they might follow in his footsteps. Netanyahu’s public diplomacy minister, Galit Distal Atbaryan, claims that Netanyahu summoned Gallant to his office and informed him “that he doesn’t have any faith in him anymore and therefore he is fired.”
“The security of the state of Israel always was and will always remain my life mission,” Gallant tweeted shortly after the announcement. Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition, stated that Gallant’s dismissal “harms national security and ignores all defense officials’ warnings.” Assaf Zamir, Israel’s consul general in New York City, quit in protest.