Israeli defense minister calls for halt to judicial overhaul

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called on Saturday for an immediate and temporary halt to the far-right government’s contentious plan to overhaul the judiciary, the first public dissent from within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition.

Citing the need for dialogue with the opposition, Gallant asked Netanyahu’s coalition to wait until after the Jewish passover holiday that begins on April 5 before pushing ahead with its divisive plan to overhaul the judiciary.

He said he is worried that the overhaul plans pose a threat to the country’s security. The plan has sparked the largest protest movement in Israel’s history, bringing thousands to face off against police in the streets weekly.

“I will not take part in this,” Gallant said, although did not elaborate on what would happen if the government pressed on. His statement indicated the first crack in Netanyahu’s coalition, the most right-wing government in Israeli history.

In recent weeks, discontent over the overhaul has even surged from within the Israeli army — what Israelis consider to be the country’s most respected and unifying institution. A growing number of Israeli reservists have threatened to withdraw from voluntary duty in the past weeks, posing a broad challenge to Netanyahu as he plows ahead with the reform while on trial for corruption.

“The events taking place in Israeli society do not spare the Israel Defense Forces – from all sides, feelings of anger, pain and disappointment arise, with an intensity I have never encountered before,” Gallant said in a televised address on Saturday after the end of the Jewish Sabbath. “I see how the source of our strength is being eroded.”

Gallant said that the national crisis over the judicial overhaul has created a “clear, immediate and tangible danger to the security of the state.”

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