Israeli president calls for halt to judicial overhaul

Lazy eyes listen


On Sunday night, Israeli President Isaac Herzog urged the government to halt the divisive judicial overhaul that has sparked months of protests across the country.

His remarks came just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Yoav Gallant, who had spoken out against the proposed reform. The move fueled nationwide protests, which were attended by more than 600,000 people on Saturday, according to local media reports.

During the most recent protests, demonstrators completely blocked Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway, setting bonfires and chanting “democracy.” Water cannons were used by police to disperse the crowd.

Clashes erupted in Jerusalem as activists broke down barriers and confronted police outside Netanyahu’s private residence.

As the protests grew louder, Herzog took to Twitter to address Netanyahu and the ruling coalition. “I am calling on you to stop legislation immediately for the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of responsibility,” he wrote, adding that the protests are endangering Israel’s security, economy, and society.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also chimed in, saying the country is “in greater danger than at any time since the Yom Kippur war,” referring to the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1973. He urged Netanyahu to rescind the defence minister’s dismissal, halt the judicial overhaul, and “enter a period of discussions.”

On Sunday, dozens of Israeli universities declared general strikes in protest of Gallant’s dismissal. The heads of the institutions said in a joint statement that studies would be halted beginning Monday morning “against the backdrop of the continuation of the legislative process that undermines the foundations of Israeli democracy and endangers its continued existence.”

On Monday, Pinchas Idan, the head of the workers union at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, announced an immediate halt to departures, as Israel’s General Organization of Workers called for a strike to “stop the madness” over the reform.

The Israel Medical Association announced a “full strike in the healthcare system” in response to the proposed reform until the government announces “a clear and serious course of negotiations leading to broad agreements.” It went on to say that the strike would take place in all public hospitals and community clinics, but that all life-saving services would remain available.

Massive protests have erupted across Israel since January, sparked by Netanyahu’s cabinet’s plans to limit the Supreme Court’s ability to rule against the legislative and executive branches of government while giving the ruling coalition a majority on the committee that appoints judges.

Netanyahu’s coalition watered down the proposed reform earlier this month, reducing the number of government representatives on the judicial committee. According to a senior US official, the move followed a phone call between the prime minister and US President Joe Biden, who expressed concern about the planned judicial overhaul.