Tel Aviv [Israel]: Embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to back down on controversial plans to overhaul the country’s judiciary on Monday, amid unprecedented nationwide strikes including a shutdown of the international airport, CNN reported.
Israel’s Histadrut trade union which coordinated the strike said that some government ministries, the country’s three biggest cities, banks, ports and many other companies and agencies were on strike on Monday and added that essential services such as hospitals and firefighters were to operate on a Saturday schedule, CNN reported.
Netanyahu said he would delay votes on the remaining legislation until after the Knesset’s Passover recess in April “to give time for a real chance for a real debate.” In a televised address, Netanyahu said that he was “aware of the tensions” and is “listening to the people.”
He further said, “Out of the responsibility to the nation, I decided to delay … the vote, in order to give time for discussion. However, Israeli PM Netanyahu hinted that the halt was only temporary. He stressed that the overhaul was necessary, and added that criticism of refusal to train or serve in the military in protest at the planned changes. He said,
“Refusing is the end of our country,” as per the news report.
After Netanyahu’s announcement, Histadrut labour union leader Arnon Bar-David announced that a general strike, which swept across the nation on Monday would now be called off, CNN reported citing its affiliate Channel 13.
Arnon Bar-David warned the Israeli PM against reviving the legislation. Arnon Bar-David said, “If the prime minister returns to aggressive legislation he’ll find us facing him. Legislation without consent will be met with a general strike.”
Under the proposals, the Israeli government will have control over the appointment of judges, and parliament would have the power to override Supreme Court decisions, according to a CNN report. The Netanyahu-led government also sought to change the procedure of how judges are chosen and remove government ministries’ independent legal advisers.
On Sunday, Israeli PM fired his defence minister Yoav Gallant, who had called for a halt to plans to overhaul the country’s court system, CNN reported. Netanyahu’s office announced Gallant’s removal in a statement after he became the first member of the cabinet to break ranks over the proposals, which have sparked weeks of protests.”
Yoav Gallant called for a halt to the judicial reforms in a speech on Saturday. He said going ahead with the proposals could pose a threat to Israel’s security. Protests had erupted in Israel’s capital Tel Aviv after Netanyahu fired his Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for challenging his judicial overhaul plan.
The plan to remake the courts — which would give Netanyahu’s government greater power to handpick judges, including those presiding over his corruption trial, in which he is charged in three cases and faces potential prison time — has pitted liberal and secular Jewish Israelis against more right-wing and religiously conservative factions, along a fault line long in emerging, Washington Post reported.