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Massive protests erupt in Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked defense secretary

Jerusalem — Tens of thousands of Israelis flooded the streets of cities across the country on Sunday night after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly dismissed his defense minister for challenging the Israeli leader’s judicial reform plans. erupted in anger.

Protesters in Tel Aviv blocked a highway, lit a large bonfire, and police brawled with protesters gathered outside Netanyahu’s private residence in Jerusalem.

The turmoil has deepened a months-long crisis over Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the judicial system, sparking mass protests, alarming business leaders and former security chiefs, and deterring from the United States and other close allies. caused concern.

Netanyahu’s dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant suggests the prime minister and his allies will aggressively pursue overhaul plans this week. Gallant, the first senior member of the ruling Likud party to speak out, said deep divisions could weaken the military.

But as hordes of demonstrators flooded the streets late into the night, Likud ministers began showing their willingness to step on the brakes. He said the party would support him if he decided to do so.

Israeli media said Netanyahu coalition leaders are due to meet on Monday morning. Later in the day, grassroots protesters announced they would hold another large-scale demonstration outside the Knesset or parliament in Jerusalem.

In a brief statement, Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister had dismissed Gallant late Sunday.

After Netanyahu’s announcement, tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in protest, blocking Tel Aviv’s main artery, turning the Ayalon highway into a sea of ​​blue and white Israeli flags, and lighting a large bonfire in the middle of the road. turned on.

Thousands of people gathered outside Netanyahu’s private residence as demonstrations took place in Beersheba, Haifa and Jerusalem. Police brawled with protesters and fired water cannons at the crowd. Thousands then marched from the residence to the Knesset.

Inon Ayzik, 27, said he came to a demonstration outside Netanyahu’s private residence in central Jerusalem because “bad things are happening in the country”. He called judicial reform a “quick legislative blitzkrieg.”

Netanyahu’s decision comes less than a day after former senior general Gallant called for a moratorium on the controversial law until after next month’s Independence Day holiday, citing military unrest. rice field.

Gallant had expressed concern that social divisions were undermining military morale and encouraging Israeli enemies. said.

Several other Likud members had suggested they might follow Galant, but the party quickly barred the leader on Sunday, paving the way for his dismissal.

Garit Distal Atbaryan, Netanyahu’s foreign affairs minister, said Netanyahu summoned Galant to his office and said, “He is fired because he no longer trusts him.”

Gallant tweeted shortly after the announcement, stating, “National security of Israel has always been and will always be my mission in life.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid said Gallant’s dismissal would “harm national security and ignore the warnings of all defense officials.”

Asaf Zamir, the Israeli consul general in New York City, resigned in protest.

Gallant is expected to be replaced by Avi Diktor, the former head of the Shin Bet Security Service. Dichter was reportedly poised to join Gallant, but instead announced on Sunday that he was supporting the prime minister.

Netanyahu’s government is proceeding with a parliamentary vote, the centerpiece of an overhaul, this week. This is a law that gives the ruling coalition the final say on all judicial appointments. It also seeks passage of legislation that gives Congress the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions and limit judicial review of laws.

Netanyahu and his allies say the plan will restore balance between the judicial and executive branches and curb what they see as interventionist courts with liberal sympathies.

But critics say the law would remove Israel’s system of checks and balances and centralize power in the hands of the governing coalition. They also say Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, has a conflict of interest.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets over the past three months to protest the plans in the largest demonstration in the country’s 75-year history. The State Department dismissed as “totally false” allegations repeated by the prime minister’s son Yair Netanyahu that the US government was funding these protests.

Leaders of Israel’s vibrant tech industry say the change would scare investors, former security officials opposed the plan and key allies including the US and Germany expressed concern. are doing.

In recent weeks there has been growing dissatisfaction within the most popular and respected organization among Israel’s Jewish majority, the Israeli military. A growing number of Israeli reservists, including fighter pilots, have threatened to withdraw from voluntary missions if the law is passed.

The Israeli military faces increasing fighting in the occupied West Bank, threats from Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, and fears that its arch-nemesis Iran is close to developing a nuclear weapons capability.

Manuel Trajtenberg, head of the National Security Institute, an influential Israeli think tank, said: “Netanyahu can dismiss the defense minister, but he cannot dismiss the warnings he hears from Gallant. ‘ said.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Good Governance Group on Sunday called on Netanyahu to punish him for allegedly violating a conflict of interest agreement meant to prevent him from dealing with the country’s justice system while he faces corruption charges. appealed to the Supreme Court of the country.

The Movement for Israel’s Quality Government, which vehemently opposes reform, has called on the courts to compel Netanyahu to comply with the law or to fine or imprison him. He said it’s not above the law.

The Prime Minister said the appeal should be dismissed and there was no reason for the Supreme Court to intervene.

Netanyahu is barred by the country’s attorney general from directly addressing his government’s plans to reform the judicial system under a conflict of interest agreement recognized by the Supreme Court in its ruling on Netanyahu’s suitability during a corruption trial. Instead, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, an aide to Netanyahu, is spearheading the overhaul.

But on Thursday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he was relieved of the attorney general’s decision after parliament passed a law making it difficult to remove a sitting prime minister, vowing to face the crisis and “fix the cracks” in the country. In a proclamation, Attorney General Ghali Baharaf Miala warned that Netanyahu was violating a conflict of interest agreement.

The fast-paced legal and political developments have thrust Israel into uncharted territory, said Guy Lurie, a research fellow at the Israel Institute for Democracy, a Jerusalem think tank.

“We are at the beginning of a constitutional crisis in the sense that there are disagreements about the authority and legitimacy of various governing bodies,” he said.

https://abc7ny.com/israel-protest-ny-consul-general-asaf-zamir/13026042/ Massive protests erupt in Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked defense secretary

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