Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Saturday that the explosive effort to reshape and weaken the judiciary poses a threat to the country’s security—the first major crack in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.
“The deepening split is seeping into the military and defense institutions. This is a clear, immediate and real danger to Israel’s security,” Gallant said in a televised speech.
“For the sake of Israel’s security, for the sake of our sons and daughters, the legislative process must be stopped at this time.”
The plan to overhaul the judiciary has sparked a national crisis in Israel. On Saturday night, tens of thousands of Israelis filled the streets in protest. Some opponents of the plan have said they will refuse call-up to military service if the government goes ahead.
Gallant’s call to halt the movement—which drew public support from two fellow members of the Likud party, according to Reuters—comes days before a pivotal vote on a bill to give the government more control over judicial appointments.
Netanyahu—who is on trial for corruption and is spending the weekend in London—had no immediate public reaction to Gallant breaking ranks. But Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said the prime minister should fire him.
Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi apologized to right-wing Israelis “for our defense minister giving in to pressure from the left,” the Jerusalem Post reported.
“We won’t cancel the people’s vote to satisfy the elite and the media.”