Israeli PM Netanyahu freezes judicial overhaul; Urges protesters to ‘behave responsibly’

Netanyahu said he had ordered a “standstill” on the controversial legislation until after the Knesset recess to “give a real opportunity for real dialogue.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday that he would temporarily freeze his government’s controversial plans to overhaul the judiciary following unprecedented nationwide protests and a general strike that has crippled the Jewish nation.

Netanyahu said he had ordered a “standstill” on the controversial legislation until after the Knesset recess to “give a real opportunity for real dialogue.”

“One thing I am not ready to accept – there is a minority of extremists who are ready to tear our country to shreds…escorting us into civil war and calling for denial of military service, which is a terrible crime,” said the Israeli Prime Minister. said.

Drawing an analogy to the story of King Solomon from around 3,000 years ago, when two women held out their hands to claim a baby boy and the king said to divide the child in two to determine the true mother , Netanyahu said he would not let that happen to Israel in his custody.

‘When there is an option to avoid civil war through dialogue, I take a time out for dialogue…out of national responsibility,’ Netanyahu said, saying most of his coalition members support ‘reforms’ and that he could have done it if he wanted to.

On Monday, Netanyahu urged protesters ‘to behave responsibly and refrain from violence’ as Israelis across the country began descending on Jerusalem and workers from various sectors joined a protest movement against the government’s controversial plan.

Netanyahu’s call came hours after President Isaac Herzog urged him on Monday to immediately halt his controversial judicial reform, warning that the move endangers the country’s security, economy and society.

Netanyahu, in his first public statement since widespread protests erupted in reaction to his dismissal of the defense minister, urged protesters, left and right, “to behave responsibly and refrain from any violence “.

As Israelis across the country began descending on Jerusalem, in a tweet Netanyahu appeared to address fears of violent clashes tonight between opponents and supporters of the government’s judicial overhaul plan.

“We are all brothers and sisters,” Netanyahu stressed in his tweet.

President Herzog’s appeal to Netanyahu came after the prime minister fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for opposing his judicial reforms, sparking widespread street protests. The president also called on the government to put aside political considerations for the good of the nation.

“Last night we witnessed very difficult scenes. I appeal to the Prime Minister, the members of the government and the members of the coalition: there are hard and painful feelings. The whole nation is delighted with a deep concern,” Herzog said.

“Our security, our economy, our society are all under threat. The entire people of Israel are watching you. The entire Jewish people are watching you. The whole world is watching you,” the presiding officer said in a statement.

“In the name of the unity of the people of Israel, in the name of the necessary responsibility, I ask you to immediately stop the legislative process,” he stressed.

He urged all leaders in power to put the citizens of the country above all else.

“I call on the leaders of all Knesset factions, coalition and opposition alike, to put the citizens of this country above all else and to act with courage and responsibility without further delay. This is not a political moment, it is a moment for leadership and accountability,” the president asserted.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Israel on Sunday night after Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Gallant after he said on Saturday that the judicial overhaul “poses a clear, immediate and tangible threat to the security of Israel. State “.

Angered by Gallant’s televised speech, the Prime Minister’s Office in a terse statement on Sunday evening said that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided this evening (Sunday, March 26, 2023) to remove Defense Minister Yoav Gallant “.

The announcement sparked a spontaneous and unprecedented outburst of anger against the country’s longest-serving prime minister.

An unconfirmed Channel 12 report said 600,000 to 700,000 Israelis were protesting late Sunday across the country, with demonstrations reported from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Eilat in the south.

Protesters in Tel Aviv blocked a major highway and lit large bonfires, while police clashed with demonstrators who gathered outside Netanyahu’s private home in Jerusalem.

Unrest over Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposals to shake up the judiciary by severely curtailing the High Court of Justice’s judicial review powers and the government’s efforts to cement political control over the appointment of judges have been met with controversy. resistance not only in the streets of the country but also abroad with thousands of members of the Jewish diaspora protesting during Netanyahu’s visits to Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The protests have alarmed business leaders, former security chiefs and raised concern among Israel’s close allies, including the United States.

The country has also seen economic disruption with talk of “capital flight” and high-tech executives and companies.

Arnon Bar-David, the head of Israel’s largest trade union federation, Histadrut, announced a “historic” strike on Monday to try to “stop the madness” of the government’s controversial judicial reform.

“We are all worried about the fate of Israel,” Bar-David said. “Together we say, enough is enough! We have lost our way – it’s not about left or right. We can no longer polarize the nation,” the union leader told The Times of Israel newspaper.

Bar-David said the strike would begin on Monday if Prime Minister Netanyahu did not announce a halt to the judicial overhaul.

Israel’s main airport, Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, announced an immediate halt to all outgoing flights on Monday, minutes after the Histadrut leader announced the “historic” strike.

The Histadrut also ordered all government employees to strike, including at all of Israel’s diplomatic missions around the world, the newspaper reported.

Quoting a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in the United States, he confirmed that the mission was closed until further notice.

The National Student and Youth Council, representing high school and college students, has declared a national strike which will begin Monday morning.

The council called for “a halt to the

Two protesters entered the Knesset building and shouted at Education Minister Yoav Kisch that he should resign. They were quickly taken away by security guards.

As the protests escalated with an unforeseen display of anger, some Likud ministers relented, beginning to show their willingness to compromise.

Culture Minister Micky Zohar, a Netanyahu confidant, said the party would back him if he decided to put the judicial overhaul on hold.

Protest organizers, mostly ordinary people with no stated political affiliation, continued to press for further demonstrations on Monday.

Political analysts see development as a “popular movement” beyond the control of any political formation. The opposition, however, fully supported and participated in the protests.

The legislation, which many argue aims to establish the supremacy of the executive over the judiciary, making it subservient to the government, is expected to go through final readings this week in the Knesset.

Seen on the side of international anger, including a rebuke from US President Joe Biden, Netanyahu appeared weak and bewildered, but also hesitant to back out of proposed ‘reforms’ for fear of backlash within his ruling party, the Likud.


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