Israel dispatch: anti-Netanyahu protests escalate following firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant as public alarm spreads over security situation Dispatches
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Israel dispatch: anti-Netanyahu protests escalate following firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant as public alarm spreads over security situation

Sharon Basch is an Israeli American who spent the last two years living in Israel before starting her JD at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

Following the firing of Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant Saturday, tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets all over Israel. Protestors in Tel Aviv blocked the roads and started large bonfires on the Ayalon freeway – chanting “Bibi Go Home,” “democracy or revolt” and other slogans. In Jerusalem, protestors gathered under the Netanyahu residence and in front of the Parliament building.

Asaf Zamir, Consul General of Israel in New York has resigned from his position, declaring that he can “no longer continue representing this government.”

According to local news, mass strikes will occur Monday. The Histadrut (the Israeli labor union) led by Arnon Bar David will announce a general strike Monday morning, following a meeting with CEOs of major banks, CEOs of chains, and other prominent business leaders. Over twenty mayors and council-heads from across the nation have announced a hunger strike starting Monday morning if the reforms are not halted. All major universities will not be operating and students are being encouraged to join protests with their lecturers. Doctors are claiming they will call in “sick” Monday, prompting fears that the hospitals will not function properly.

Numerous members of Netanyahu’s Likud party and his coalition have called to halt the reforms. Likud member and Minister of Culture and Sports Miki Zohar tweeted Sunday night “The reform of the judicial system is necessary and essential, but when the house is on fire, you don’t ask who is right, but pour water and save its occupants.” Minister of Economy, also a Likud member Nir Barkat also voiced support to halt the reforms.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin has threatened his resignation if Netanyahu does in fact pause the reforms.

At this point, protestors are no longer completely focused on the judicial reform plans – the firing of the Defense Minister following his announcement Sunday that the reforms and protests are a serious security threat to Israel has put citizens on high alert. Many feel that the Prime Minister has overstepped his bounds and put Israel’s security at risk. Merav Michaeli, leader of the Labor party has called on Twitter for citizens to take to the streets, “Netanyahu is dangerous to Israel. Come to Ayalon [the major freeway of Tel Aviv]. Let’s demonstrate. This is a fight for our lives.” Former Minister of Justice and New Hope party leader Gideon Sa’ar tweeted that

“Netanyahu’s decision to fire Defense Minister Yoav Galant is an act of madness, indicating a complete lack of judgment. There is no precedent in Israel’s history for a security minister being fired because he warned, as required by his position, of a security danger. Netanyahu is determined to degenerate Israel into the abyss. Every day that Netanyahu is in office endangers Israel and its future.” 

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid made a joint statement:“State security cannot be a card in the political game. Netanyahu crossed a red line tonight. We call on the ministers of the Likud, the members of the Knesset of the Likud, do not lend a hand to the crushing of national security.”

At around three AM Israel time, after nearly five hours of protests since the announcement of Galant’s firing, officers in Tele Aviv began spraying protestors with water cannons en masse in an attempt to make protestors disperse and open the blocked Tel Aviv freeway. Protestors chanted “disgrace!” at the officers.