It was, protesters would later say, a night to remember. They were on the streets within an hour of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcing on 26th March that he was sacking his defence minister, Yoav Gallant, for declaring that the government’s plan to neuter Israel’s Supreme Court was undermining national security. Thousands of demonstrators chanted “Dem-o-krat-ia” on Jerusalem’s Azza Street as the police used water cannons to push them back from the prime minister’s home. As 22-year-old student Guy Dor—still glistening with water—put it to me: “Why do you appoint someone as minister of defence if you don’t trust him when he tells you the state is in danger?”
Gallant, who as head of the Israeli Defence Force’s Southern Command had led the lethal assault on Gaza in 2008–09, was an unlikely martyr to the democratic cause. But Dor was protesting less about one man’s fate than about the “coup”: the plan to dismantle the Supreme Court’s independence. Many in Israel see this as the first and crucial part of a Faustian pact that Netanyahu—who is on trial on corruption charges that he denies—made with extremist allies in his coalition government.