ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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But they did manage a handshake

PM fails to mention defense minister in frosty pre-Passover toast

Gallant warmly welcomes PM despite his public sacking last week, which was later frozen

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a pre-Passover toast, with Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi at right, April 4, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a pre-Passover toast, with Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi at right, April 4, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a frosty pre-Passover toast on Tuesday, a little more than a week after the premier announced his dismissal for urging a pause to the government’s contentious judicial overhaul program.

“Mr. Prime Minister, we are happy to host you here at the Defense Ministry in the IDF General Staff Headquarters,” Gallant told Netanyahu.

“Your presence here, as always, and certainly in the current circumstances, and during the Passover holiday, in a busy period of operational activity, has great significance,” he said.

Despite Gallant’s warm words, Netanyahu in his own remarks at the event failed to mention him at all, and the premier seemed to avoid making eye contact with him.

Netanyahu’s office announced last Sunday that the premier had decided to fire Gallant after he called on the government a day earlier to halt its judicial overhaul and warned that opposition to it had “penetrated the IDF and security agencies,” impacting their operational capacity. Despite the announcement, Netanyahu never submitted a formal letter of dismissal, and his office announced Monday that the move was officially delayed.

A photo published by the Defense Ministry after the event showed Gallant and Netanyahu shaking hands.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands at a pre-Passover toast, April 4, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

“I want to wish you all a kosher and happy Passover — and hopefully a peaceful one too,” Netanyahu said, sitting alongside Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi.

“I want to express appreciation to you, the chief of staff personally, and to the entire chain of command, down to the last soldier, for the tremendous daily effort that never stops for the sake of Israel’s security,” he added, glaringly omitting Gallant.

Although he didn’t address the elephant in the room, Netanyahu did directly reference the ongoing national debate regarding his government’s now-paused judicial overhaul plan.

“Today, we have a dispute between different parts of the nation. I hope we will solve this dispute with a broad agreement. I am doing everything in my power to achieve this,” Netanyahu said.

He and Gallant also appeared together Monday at two back-to-back pre-Passover toasts, where they called for a unified Israeli amid months of intense division.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at a pre-Passover event at an air force base on April 3, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom / GPO)

“Without the IDF and without security forces, there is no State of Israel. In order for the State of Israel to exist, we need to protect one another, we need to preserve our ability to defend ourselves against those who want to kill us,” Netanyahu said at the Adam training base outside Modiin on Monday.

“The most important thing is keeping politics outside the [army] base, uniting together to defend Israel, that’s why we are here,” he added.

Gallant delivered a similar message of unity in the face of a common enemy to soldiers: “The enemy’s bullets don’t discriminate between those who come from the city or country, from the mountains or valleys. We’re all the same on the battlefield, so we need to show a unified front against the enemy.”

The prime minister’s sacking of Gallant last Sunday sparked spontaneous mass protests in Tel Aviv and across the country that continued into the early hours of Monday morning.

The protests swelled on Monday to include a strike coordinated by the Histadrut labor federation, including the grounding of outgoing flights from Ben Gurion Airport, leading Netanyahu to announce a temporary pause to the legislative push that evening, saying he was going to give compromise negotiations a chance.

In a statement the following Monday, the Prime Minister’s Office said the firing of Gallant had been put off due to security concerns. Reports, however, have indicated that Netanyahu is waiting for Gallant to apologize and profess fealty to the premier.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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