Netanyahu sacks defence minister who opposed judicial overhaul

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Defence Minister Yoav Gallant a day after he broke ranks and urged the government to halt a highly-contested planto overhaul the judicial system on Sunday.

Gallant’s dismissals will likely fuel mass protests against the plan that have already rocked the nation for months. It came as Netanyahu was poised to ratify legislation that would tighten political control over judicial appointments. That bill, and others that would limit Supreme Court powers to rule against government policy, have triggered warnings at home and abroad over Israel’s democratic health.

On Saturday, Gallant became the most senior member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party to say he would not support the judicial overhaul, saying protests that have included growing numbers of military reservists were also affecting regular forces and undermining national security.

“At this time, for the sake of our country, I am willing to take any risk and pay any price.” says Gallant in his televised address.

The response came on Sunday night.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided this evening to dismiss Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.” Netanyahu’s office says.

It did not name a replacement or give any other details.

Shortly after his dismissal, Gallant, 64, wrote on Twitter: “The state of Israel security has always been and will always be my life’s mission.

Netanyahu, who is on trial on graft charges that he denies, says the judicial overhaul will balance out the branches of government.

Critics, who range from business leaders to former military officers as well as opposition parties, say the overhaul will weaken Israel’s democracy, hurt the economy and hand uncontrolled powers to the government of the day.

A key bill effectively giving Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition more control over the appointment of judges is expected to be brought for ratification this week in the Knesset, where he and his allies wield 64 out of 120 seats.

But how; – or even whether that as yet-unscheduled vote will proceed has been thrown into question by Likud dissenters