Israel PM Netanyahu delays judicial overhaul plan after protests
Months of protests led to opposition to Netanyahu’s plans from within his own government.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that a controversial plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary will be delayed after months of protest and opposition from within his own government.
Netanyahu said he he wanted to give time to seek a compromise over the contentious package with his political opponents.
“Out of a sense of national responsibility, out of a will to prevent a rupture among our people, I have decided to pause the second and third readings of the bill,” he said in an address on Monday.
His statement had initially been expected earlier in the day but was delayed after far-right members of his government reportedly urged him to not back down.
That illustrates the deep divide in Israeli society between supporters of the government, who say the judicial changes are necessary, and growing opposition to his plan, which argues that the moves will weaken the independence of the judiciary and turn Israel into an autocracy.
Protesters gathered on Monday to demonstrate against the government as the country’s biggest labour union, Histadrut, said it would start a general strike if the proposals were pushed through.
Workers in some sectors did go on strike, with flights suspended at Ben Gurion airport, and work was halted at the country’s main seaports.
Kindergartens and malls were also closed, as well as branches of the fast food chain McDonald’s.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, whose ceremonial role normally means that he does not get involved in day-to-day politics, has also called for the legislative process to stop.
“For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of responsibility, I call on you to stop the legislative process immediately,” Herzog said on Monday morning.
Herzog’s comments came after protesters took to the streets on Sunday night in several Israeli cities after Netanyahu fired Defence Minister Yoav Gallant one day after Gallant called on television for Netanyahu to halt his proposal, as it was threatening the country’s national security.
A number of army reservists have refused to be called up in protest at the government’s plan, leading to fears in Israel that the country’s military readiness would be impacted.