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Israeli defence minister calls for halt on judicial overhaul


Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant attends a news conference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at Ben Gurion Airport in Lod, Israel, March 9, 2023. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Saturday called on the government to halt legislation on changes to the judiciary, saying the bitter dispute over the measures poses a danger to the country.

“The deepening split is seeping into the military and defence institutions – this is a clear, immediate and real danger to Israel’s security,” Gallant said in a brief televised statement.

Israel has been gripped by mass protests since the government announced its judicial plans in January.

Gallant has previously voiced worries about a wave of Israelis who have pledged not to heed call-ups for military reserve duty if the reforms proceed, saying that could weaken war-readiness and national cohesion.

The judicial overhaul has also stirred concern abroad about Israel’s democratic health. Senior officials in the Finance Ministry warned this week of an economic backlash. Gallant said he supported reforms of the justice system but they must be done with broad agreement.

Opposition to the plan does not appear to have weakened, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge this week to enshrine civil liberties and minority rights in law and defer some chapters of the overhaul during parliament’s April recess.

His national-religious coalition is still, however, aiming to write one bill into law before April 2, when lawmakers disband for spring recess.

Gallant’s statement showed cracks in Netanyahu’s coalition, with far-right police minister Itamar Ben-Gvir calling on the premier to fire Gallant soon after his remarks.

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