Home Benjamin Netanyahu Netanyahu reverses decision to fire Israel defence minister after protests

Netanyahu reverses decision to fire Israel defence minister after protests

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As Israel faces a surge in violence on almost every front, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has reversed his decision to fire the defence minister, Yoav Gallant, for warning that his judicial overhaul was harming the military.

In a televised speech late on Monday, Netanyahu said Gallant would stay in his position, two weeks after he dismissed the minister.

“I decided to put the differences we had behind us,” he said. “Gallant remains in his position and we will continue to work together for the security of the citizens of Israel.”

Gallant welcomed Netanyahu’s move, posting on social media a picture of him with the premier and the message: “We continue together with full power for Israel.”

Gallant’s removal triggered an unprecedented surge of protest against the already unpopular plan to disempower the judiciary as many Israelis reached the conclusion that even their security could be sacrificed for Netanyahu’s personal interests.

But Gallant, seen abroad as a key interlocutor in a government where extremists wield considerable power, never received a formal dismissal letter, remaining in office amid a surge of violence triggered by Israeli police raids on Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque.

In the last week, citizens of the country have been rattled by rocket fire from Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, a roadside shooting that killed three British-Israeli women in the West Bank, and a car ramming in Tel Aviv that killed an Italian tourist and wounded seven other people.

The security crisis has further shaken Netanyahu’s popularity with a poll taken on Sunday showing that only 27% of respondents “rely on the government to handle the wave of terror”.

In his televised address, Netanyahu tried to dispel doubts about his leadership, saying the Israeli air force had struck back hard and that troops would “reach and settle accounts with all the terrorists”.

“I am working with determination and responsibility,” he said. “We will repel the dangers and prevail over our enemies.”

The premier said he was “restoring deterrence” that had allegedly been weakened by the previous government.

Referring to the growing number of army and air force reservists who had joined the protest movement, Netanyahu implied they too were responsible for emboldening Israel’s foes. “Our enemies interpreted the calls to refuse service as weakness,” he said. In fact the reservists had made clear they would still take active combat roles when needed.

According to the poll, only a fifth of the Israeli public approved of the premier’s performance.

The survey of 699 Israelis by a respected pollster, Camil Fuchs, for Channel 13 showed that the Likud party-led coalition would be trounced today by the parties that held power before last November’s elections by a 64 to 46 margin, with 10 mostly Arab legislators not falling in either camp.

The poll pointed to a surge in popularity for former defence minister Benny Gantz and his centre-right National Unity party. National Unity would win 29 seats, Yesh Atid, a centrist party currently heading the opposition, would gain 21 seats and Netanyahu’s Likud party would crash from 32 to 20 seats.

The current coalition has 64 seats, including 14 held by two rightwing extremist parties, Religious Zionism and Jewish Power. Their popularity is also declining, with the poll giving them a combined 11 seats. Polls in late March had also shown the coalition losing power, but the new poll results amounted to an all-out “collapse” for the coalition in the words of Israeli analysts.