June 6, 2023, Tuesday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Mass protests erupt after Netanyahu sacks Defense Chief

The Nepal Weekly
March 28, 2023

Thousands of Israelis gathered in the streets of cities across the country Sunday night in a spontaneous outburst of anger as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly fired his Defence Minister for challenging the Israeli leader’s judicial overhaul plan.

Protesters in Tel Aviv blocked a main highway and lit large bonfires, while police clashed with protesters who gathered outside Netanyahu’s private home in Jerusalem.

The unrest deepened a months long crisis over Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the judiciary, which has sparked mass protests, alarmed business leaders and former security chiefs and drawn concern from the United States and other close allies.

Netanyahu’s dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant indicated that the prime minister and his allies will barrel ahead this week with the overhaul plan. Gallant had been the first senior member of the ruling Likud party to speak out against  the move, saying the deep divisions were threatening to pacify the military.

But as droves of protesters flooded the streets late into the night, Likud ministers began indicating a willingness to hit the brakes. Culture Minister Micky Zohar, a Netanyahu confidant, said the party would support him if he decided to pause the judicial overhaul.

Israeli media said leaders in Netanyahu’s coalition were to meet on Monday morning. Later in the day, the grassroots protest movement said it would hold another mass demonstration outside the Knesset, or parliament, in Jerusalem.

In a brief statement, Netanyahu’s office said late Sunday the prime minister had dismissed Gallant. Netanyahu later tweeted, “We must all stand strong against refusal.” Tens of thousands of Israelis poured into the streets in protest after Netanyahu’s announcement, blocking Tel Aviv’s main artery, transforming the Ayalon highway into a sea of blue-and-white Israeli flags and lighting a large bonfire in the middle of the road.

Demonstrations took place in Beersheba, Haifa and Jerusalem, where thousands of people gathered outside Netanyahu’s private residence. Police scuffled with protesters and sprayed the crowd with a water cannon. Thousands then marched from the residence to the Knesset.