Gallant calls to pause judicial overhaul, citing ‘tangible danger’ to state security
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Saturday called on the government to halt its judicial reform legislation to allow for reform talks, days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government would withdraw a central of the proposed shakeup next week.
“The security of the State of Israel is my life’s mission,” said Gallant, a retired general who was once named the army’s chief of staff. “Dressed in the uniform of the IDF, I have risked my life many times for the State of Israel, and at this time, for the sake of our country, I am ready to take any risk and pay any price.”
The defense minister highlighted “major threats” facing Israel – near and far, citing Iran’s nuclear program, Palestinian attacks and recent tensions with the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. “More than ever, we are facing unprecedented security challenges,” he said.
Gallant, who joined the military as a “source of pride” for service members and the nation at large, said he has been speaking with military officials in recent weeks about the reform plans.
“I hear their voices, and I’m worried. The events that are taking place and the issues in Israeli society, do not skip the Israeli Defense Forces. There has been an unprecedented increase in feelings of anger, pain and disappointment,” he said.
“And I see the source of our strength eroding,” Gallant said. “The growing divide in our society is affecting the IDF and security agencies. This is a clear, immediate and tangible threat to the security of the state. I will not allow this.”
Declaring himself a right winger, Gallant noted his membership in the ruling Likud party, and his commitments included what he said was putting the country first. He continued to emphasize his support for enacting changes to the judicial system.
“But significant national changes are achieved through dialogue,” he said.
“We must not harm our unity. There must be no doubt in the hearts of the mothers, who are sending their sons and daughters to serve in the IDF,” continued Gallant. “The victory of one side, be it in the halls of the Knesset or on the streets of our cities, will result in the loss of the State of Israel.”
The defense minister called for a “unified national process with broad participation, a process that will strengthen the State of Israel and preserve the strength of the IDF.” Gallant also said that he had said privately in the past few days that talks had to be held because of the security situation, but that he was now coming out publicly.
“For the security of Israel, for the sake of our sons and daughters — the legislative process should be stopped — to enable the nation of Israel to celebrate Easter and Independence Day together, and mourn together on Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day,” he said.
He also called for an end to the protests – such as the mass demonstrations on Saturday evening and a rally held earlier in the day outside his home – and said that “any refusal to serve in our military should be stopped immediately, because it erodes the power of the IDF and harms our defense establishment,” amid growing warnings from reservists they may quit their service if the overhaul goes through.
Several Likud lawmakers supported Gallant’s call to halt the legislation.
MK Yuli Edelstein, who chairs the powerful Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, thanked Gallant for “joining the path I have been leading for weeks”.
“Most people want and understand the need for changes in the judicial system, but this must be done with patience, dialogue and broad discourse to reach a broad consensus,” he said in a statement.
MK David Bitan similarly said: “As I said several weeks ago, legislation should be stopped and negotiations should begin immediately and broad agreements should be reached. I support the words of my friend the defense minister.”
It was reported earlier on Saturday that Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter spoke with Netanyahu and other Likud MKs, trying to stall the judicial reform bills until after Independence Day on April 26.
“There will be no way back,” Channel 12 news quoted Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, as saying.
Gallant and the other MKs did not say whether they would vote for or against reforming the bills if they were brought to their final full Knesset reading next week, as planned. Four rebel lawmakers would deny the coalition a 61-strong majority in the 120-member parliament, which is needed to change the quasi-constitutional Basic Laws.
Other members of Likud opposed Gallant, and Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi accused him of “yielding to left-wing pressure”.
“The State of Israel is at a historic crossroads between democracy and dictatorship, and its defense minister chose dictatorship,” Karhi wrote on Twitter.
Echoing Karhi, Likud MK Tally Gotliv charged Gallant with showing “weakness and subservience”.
Coalition Shepherd Ofir Katz of Likud said that whoever does not vote in favor of the judicial reform “has ended his career in Likud.”
Speaking on a Channel 14 talk show, Katz said Gallant has made a mistake in asking for a break.
“It’s wrong and wrong big time. Who do you think you need to talk to? Do you think there is another side waiting for you?” Katz said.
Some of Netanyahu’s far-right allies also tore into Gallant, with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir urging Netanyahu to fire him.
“I call on the prime minister to sack Gallant, who came in with the votes of the right, but succumbed to the pressure of those who threatened to refuse. [to serve in the military]and tries to stop the important reform,” Ben Gvir said in a statement.
The speech received praise from opposition figures.
“Defense Minister Gallant is taking a brave and critical step tonight for the security of the State of Israel. The coup seriously harms national security and it is his role and responsibility to stop the dangerous decline,” opposition leader Yair Lapid said in a statement.
“This is the moment of truth. I call on the government: Stop everything, do not change the committee to appoint judges and the Deri law this week, and come to hold talks at the President’s residence,” he said.
Gallant’s speech came as the government pressed ahead with its legislative plans. Netanyahu said in a speech Thursday night that he would scale back parts of the shakeup going forward, but also said he would vote next week to pass the bill to put key Supreme Court appointments, including its presidency, directly under his control. coalition control. It is not yet clear when the vote will take place, although Tuesday has been set as a likely target.
Netanyahu spoke after summoning Gallant following widespread reports that the defense minister planned to hold a press conference on Thursday in which he would publicly call for a halt to the legislation.
Reformers have drawn a line in the sand on that bill, saying it will politicize the court, remove key checks on government power and seriously damage Israel’s democratic character. In response, protest leaders on Friday announced an unprecedented nationwide “week of paralysis” to disrupt daily life, including massive protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The reform has faced growing outrage and protests from top public figures including the president, lawmakers, business leaders, Nobel-winning economists, prominent security officials, and many others. . This week the Ministry of Finance’s top officials warned of deep and lasting damage to the economy if the changes go ahead in their current form.