Poll: 63% of public oppose sacking of defense chief

Gallant’s future unclear as calls grow for PM to roll back his firing

With Netanyahu yet to sign letter giving Gallant 48-hour notice, defense minister remains in his post; Deri, Gantz, Edelstein and others urge premier to rethink dismissal

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem on March 22, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem on March 22, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Despite the announcement of his ouster a day earlier, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had not received an official notice of his sacking as of late Monday, and his political future remained unclear as several coalition lawmakers lobbied to keep him on.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Gallant’s firing on Sunday night, a day after the defense minister called to halt the coalition’s judicial overhaul legislation and lamented that it had sparked a societal rift so large, it had “penetrat[ed] the IDF and security agencies.”

Gallant’s axing sparked spontaneous nationwide demonstrations, which continued through Monday.

But the move is not complete until Netanyahu signs a letter giving Gallant 48 hours’ notice, which the prime minister has yet to do. The premier has reportedly held talks with Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, a and former Shin Bet chief who is seen as the favorite to replace Gallant if Netanyahu finalizes the decision to fire him.

According to an unsourced report on the Kan public broadcaster, Shas chairman Aryeh Deri had been assured ahead of time that Gallant would not be fired and fumed at the decision when he learned about it from the media. Channel 12 said Deri and several unnamed coalition lawmakers were urging Netanyahu to roll back his decision on Monday.

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, who has also called for the legislation to be paused, expressed support for Gallant on Monday.

“This morning I held a confidential discussion on the consequences of social tensions in the country on the security system,” Edelstein tweeted, referencing a closed meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in which Gallant warned that Israel’s security was in danger amid the judicial overhaul legislation.

Israelis block the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv during a protest against the Israeli government’s planned judicial overhaul on March 26, 2023, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after the latter asked to stop the legislative effort. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Gallant reportedly told the meeting that the current crisis is seen by Israel’s enemies as an opportunity to attack, citing intelligence reports.

“The committee heard a worrying overview. In light of the information that came up in the discussion and in view of the security situation – it is clear that this is not the time to change the defense minister,” Edelstein wrote.

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.

Gallant on Saturday night urged that the judicial overhaul legislative process be suspended, citing the security consequences of the proposals.

“I see the source of our strength eroding,” he warned in a televised speech. “The growing rift in our society is penetrating the IDF and security agencies. This poses a clear, immediate, and tangible threat to the security of the state. I will not lend my hand to this.”

File: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with senior reservist officers in Tel Aviv on March 7, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Increasingly, reservists — who are a key part of the army’s routine activities, including in top units — have warned that they will not be able to serve in an undemocratic Israel, which they charge the country will become under the government’s judicial overhaul plan.

Soldiers have expressed concern that a lack of international trust in the independence of Israel’s judiciary could expose them to prosecution in international tribunals over actions they were ordered to carry out during service.

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

The statement did not mention Netanyahu, who announced the legislation would be paused. Netanyahu also did not mention Gallant in his speech announcing the pause.

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