Who is Yoav Gallant, the former defence minister fired by Benjamin Netanyahu?

Likud party member was dismissed on Sunday after strongly criticising Prime Minister's his judicial reform plan

Former Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant delivers a statement to the press at the Israel Aerospace Industries headquarters near the Ben Gurion airport. AFP
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A political standoff in Israel — which has led to the largest protests and nationwide strikes since the country’s founding — dramatically escalated on Sunday night when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired defence minister Yoav Gallant.

Mr Gallant, a member of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party, had strongly criticised the Prime Minister’s plans to overhaul the country’s judiciary.

The changes would concentrate power in the executive, by allowing the Prime Minister to influence appointments in the country’s Supreme Court. The proposals would also allow parliament to overturn court decisions by a simple majority vote.

Along with triggering the protests, Mr Netanyahu’s plans have provoked anger across multiple sectors, including the armed forces where serving officers, soldiers and pilots have said they will withhold their duties if the plans are implemented.

This was the trigger for Mr Gallant’s public intervention in the row, when he said on Sunday that the “deepening split is seeping into the military and defence institutions — this is a clear, immediate and real danger to Israel's security”.

Mr Netanyahu’s government removed Mr Gallant on Sunday night saying his remarks had not been co-ordinated with his party.

Who is Yoav Gallant?

The former general entered politics in 2015 after more than 40 years in the military, a career only interrupted briefly in the early 1980s when he left the army to work as a lumberjack in Alaska. But the former commando soon returned to service and went on to lead Shayetet 13, the country’s naval commando unit.

In February, about 550 members of the unit urged Mr Gallant to oppose Mr Netanyahu’s judicial reforms.

“We, who belong to all parts of the nation and have many and varied political views … call on in this time of emergency for the state of Israel to do everything in your power to stop the legislation to weaken the judiciary, to safeguard Israeli democracy,” the former commandos said in a statement.

It is unclear whether this, or the fact that serving Israeli soldiers withheld their military duty in opposition to Mr Netanyahu, influenced Mr Gallant’s comments on Sunday.

After leading the commando force, Mr Gallant went on to command forces in the south of the country near Gaza, eventually rising to the head of the army’s Southern Command.

He led forces during the 2008 operation against Hamas in the Gaza strip, known as Operation Cast Lead, which involved nearly a month of fighting and led to the deaths of 1,417 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

After leaving the army, his political career progressed rapidly and in 2018 he became the country’s minister of construction.

Updated: March 28, 2023, 6:06 AM