Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant oversees launch of new spy satellite, raising questions about his future
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant oversaw the launch of a new spy satellite on Wednesday, just days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would dismiss Gallant from his post, triggering a wave of backlash.
Gallant broke ranks with Netanyahu over the weekend when he called for a halt to the prime minister’s judicial reform plan, which has ignited mass protests among civilians and the military.
Netanyhau said in a brief statement on Sunday that he decided to dismiss Gallant. One day later though, he reached an agreement with other officials to postpone his coalition’s plan for a judicial overhaul until the next parliamentary session.
While the judicial reform is paused, Gallant’s future is still murky. After overseeing the launch on Wednesday, he said that the “Ofek 13” satellite is “further proof of the groundbreaking technological innovation that characterizes the Israeli security system.”
“Israel has already demonstrated many times its diverse capabilities in the field of space and is among a limited list of countries that possess these capabilities, which we will continue to develop and deepen,” Gallant said in a statement.
The “Ofek 13” is a “radar-based observation satellite” that will “allow day and night photography capabilities” and “significantly improve the intelligence of the State of Israel,” according to Avi Berger, the head of the Space Directorate at the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
The Israeli Defense Ministry and Netanyahu’s office did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday about Gallant’s status.
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Netanyahu’s pause on the judicial overhaul plan came after large parts of society shut down on Monday, with universities, hospitals, and transportation hubs grinding to a halt amid a strike.
The prime minister has argued that unelected Supreme Court justices wield too much power and wants to limit judicial review of laws while giving the governing coalition final say over judicial appointments.
“There is one other thing that characterizes the judiciary in Israel and that is that the judges veto the appointment of judges, they effectively select themselves and that doesn’t exist in any democracy. The reform that we’re dealing with right now corrects that,” Netanyahu told Piers Morgan in an interview that aired on Fox Nation this week.
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The Umbrella Movement Leadership, which has organized protests against the reforms, said that the reforms should be rejected outright.
“The government has brought Israel close to destruction and they still threaten to dismantle democracy. A temporary freeze does not suffice and the national protests will continue to intensify until the law is rejected in the Knesset,” the groups said in a statement.
Israel’s next parliamentary sessions begins on April 30.
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