JERUSALEM (VINnews) — There are few more shrewd politicians than Binyamin Netanyahu, who has dominated Israel’s political scene for over quarter of a century and been the longest serving prime minister in its history (and the most hated and villified by his opponents). However Netanyahu’s firing of his defense minister, on the eve of the most critical stage of judicial reform legislation, left all of his political allies and even political analysts dumbfounded.
Despite the atrocious behavior of Yoav Gallant, who chose to make his statements about concerns for Israel’s security while Netanyahu was away in Britain, the prime minister, usually so prudent and judicious, decided to throw caution to the winds and fire Gallant even though he knew this would further weaken his government just as it needed unity in the face of the fierce opposition of leading members of the political, military and economic establishment.
Gallant’s request – that the cabinet meet with the Chief of Staff and other members of the security establishment to hear ramifications of the reforms – was not an implausible one. A country deeply divided within is at heightened risk from its enemies and it is of utmost importance to calibrate and assess the risks which could ensue from the legislation. Yet Netanyahu, furious at Gallant’s backstabbing after he had met with him prior to the London trip, chose personal animosity over political expedience.
Had Netanyahu not fired Gallant, and had he let the cabinet hear the military echelons concerns, he might have prevented the general strike, the opposition within the Likud over the reforms and the political fallout which followed. At present he has been forced to stop the reforms and is in the unenviable position of having to ask his defense minister to remain in his position moments after sacking him. Trying to save face, Netanyahu asked Gallant to resign his Knesset seat in order to return to being a minister, an act which would force him to be loyal to the government. Gallant predictably refused, realizing that the prime minister is now at his mercy to keep his government afloat.
All this could have been prevented had Netanyahu listened to the officers, explained to them that he planned to pause legislation after changing the judicial selections committee and moved ahead with the final readings. Gallant might have abstained, might even have voted with the government and the storm would have calmed down as the Pesach recess began. Netanyahu’s hasty actions may have cost the country the crucial reforms it requires and it is unclear whether the next Knesset session will enable the bruised and battered coalition to promote the reforms again.