Gallant still carrying out defense minister duties, with future up in the air

Minister yet to receive official notice of termination; Shas chief Aryeh Deri reportedly working behind the scenes to convince Netanyahu to reverse decision

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) seen with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin in the Knesset on February 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) seen with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin in the Knesset on February 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was still serving in his role on Tuesday, two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed him for publicly urging a halt to the government’s judicial overhaul legislation.

Gallant addressed the nation with his recommendation on Saturday and was fired by Netanyahu in a statement Sunday. By Monday evening, Netanyahu, under intense public pressure, had halted the legislation as Gallant had sought. But he has not commented so far on Gallant’s future.

Hebrew media has reported on an ongoing coalition push behind the scenes for Netanyahu to reverse his decision. For now, the defense minister is fulfilling his duties, with no official notice of termination yet handed to him.

Gallant attended a planned security-related meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Tuesday afternoon. The meeting was the first encounter between Netanyahu and Gallant since the defense minister’s Saturday night speech.

Channel 12 said the meeting ended without any small talk between them or direct discussion of the minister’s future.

The premier has reportedly held talks with Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, a former Shin Bet chief who is seen as the favorite to replace Gallant if Netanyahu finalizes the decision to fire him.

In a speech delivered on Saturday, Gallant warned that the societal divisions exposed by the judicial overhaul “posed a clear, immediate, and tangible threat to the security of the state. I will not lend my hand to this.”

Less than 24 hours later, Netanyahu fired him, triggering a spontaneous mass national uprising of angry protesters who said the move was proof that Netanyahu was acting in self-interest and not with state security in mind.

Former government minister Aryeh Deri is said to be working behind the scenes to broker an agreement between Gallant and Netanyahu that would allow the former to continue in his role without sacrificing too much political capital, Channel 12 reported.

Leaving Gallant in his position would likely be opposed by some members of the coalition who advocated for Gallant’s dismissal, arguing that the defense minister’s decision to call for a legislative pause was a capitulation to military reservists who refused to serve until the judicial makeover was suspended.

Netanyahu is reported to have been incensed by Gallant’s decision to hold his press conference after previously telling Netanyahu he would wait on it, and without coordinating it with the premier.

Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant (left) and MK Yuli Edelstein arrive for a meeting of the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, in the Knesset on March 27, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 )

In a closed meeting of the Defense and Foreign Affairs committee on Monday, Gallant reportedly revealed intelligence information indicating that due to internal schisms over the now-paused overhaul, Israel’s regional security was at risk, particularly due to a potential weakening of US support, the Ynet news outlet reported.

“We are in a serious and unprecedented crisis,” Gallant was quoted as telling the committee.

Speaking after the meeting, committee chair MK Yuli Edelstein said he’d “heard worrying things” from Gallant. “Now is not the time to change defense ministers,” Edelstein added.

Gallant also received support from the opposition, with National Unity chair Benny Gantz urging Netanyahu to reconsider Gallant’s dismissal in a call on Monday night, according to a readout from Gantz’s office.

According to a Channel 12 poll from Monday night, 63 percent of respondents opposed the firing of Gallant. Among Likud voters, 58% opposed Gallant’s sacking, with 22% saying they supported the move.

After Netanyahu’s announcement on Monday that he was pausing the overhaul, Gallant said he welcomed the decision in order to hold talks with opponents of the legislation, his office said in a brief statement.

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