(JTA) — Asaf Zamir, Israel’s consul general to New York, resigned within hours of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu firing his defense minister, the latest salvo in the political crisis besetting Israel over Netanyahu’s planned radical changes to the judiciary.
“The past 18 months as Israel’s Consul General in New York were fulfilling and rewarding, but following today’s developments, it is now time for me to join the fight for Israel’s future to ensure it remains a beacon of democracy and freedom in the world,” Zamir said Sunday on Twitter, where he shared a longer letter on the consulate’s letterhead as well as a simple message on his personal account: “I quit.” followed by an Israeli flag emoji.
“Today’s dangerous decision to fire the minister of defense convinced me that I can no longer continue to represent this government,” Zamir said in his letter. It came within two hours of Netanyahu’s firing of Yoav Gallant, exactly a day after Gallant called on Netanyahu to pause the judicial reforms for at least a month to negotiate a compromise with the opposition.
Zamir is a moderate who was appointed to the New York role, considered a top diplomatic posting, by the previous centrist government. He decided to stay in the job even as some other diplomats quit in December, when Netanyahu took office. His job already appeared to be on the rocks last week after he told a public gathering that he was “deeply concerned” about the events in Israel and said that Israel “must be democratic.” That got him a call to return to Israel for a talking-to.
Zamir’s wife, the actress Maya Wertheimer, delivered her own implicit criticism of the legislation last week during an appearance at the kickoff gala of Tel Aviv Fashion Week. She walked in a show that featured Ivri Lider, an Israeli singer, who was wearing a blue dress bearing the seal of the state of Israel, along with a gold crown. Stenciled on his chest were the words “free in our land,” a quote from the Israeli national anthem. Wertheimer, who signaled on Instagram that her appearance was semi-spontaneous, carried an oversized passport during her walk down the runway — along with a massive mock plane ticket showing a New York-to-Tel Aviv itinerary.
Zamir’s resignation came as masses of protesters flocked into the streets around Israel in response to Gallant’s firing. Israel’s national labor unions have announced a general strike for Monday, when lawmakers had been scheduled to vote on a piece of the judicial reform legislation.