Netanyahu fires defense minister, sparking protests and U.S concerns

Xavier Roger


Israelis opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial overhaul plan set up bonfires and block a highway during a protest moments after the Israeli leader fired his defense minister, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, March 26, 2023. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had called on Netanyahu to freeze the plan, citing deep divisions in the country and turmoil in the military. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg) ORG XMIT: XOB123

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday fired his defense minister after the high-ranking official called for a pause on a controversial judicial reform proposal that has fueled months of intense protests in the country and abroad. In response, some 50,000 protesters took to the streets, starting bonfires on a Tel Aviv highway and knocking down a police barricade outside Netanyahu’s home.

Demonstrations have swept across Israel for months over an effort by Netanyahu’s right-wing government to overhaul the country’s judicial system. But Netanyahu’s sudden ousting of the high-level minister who opposed the changes prompted the Biden administration to issue an unusual statement of concern.

“As the president recently discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu, democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said. “Democratic societies are strengthened by checks and balances, and fundamental changes to a democratic system should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support. We continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible.”


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