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Israeli govt in chaos as judicial reform plans draw mass protests: Report

Israel faced one of the biggest waves of industrial action seen in years after the nation's largest union federation on Monday, Histadrut union, called for a general strike

Israel protest

Israeli police use water cannons to disperse demonstrators during a protest against plans by PM Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judicial system, in Tel Aviv, on Monday photo: ap/pti

Agencies Jerusalem
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition plunged into chaos on Monday, after mass overnight protests over the sacking of his defence chief piled pressure on the government to halt its bitterly contested plans to overhaul the judiciary.

Israel faced one of the biggest waves of industrial action seen in years after the nation’s largest union federation on Monday,  Histadrut union, called for a general strike. 

Netanyahu had been expected to make a televised statement on Monday morning announcing the plans, which he says are needed to restore balance to the system of government but that critics see as a threat to democracy, had been suspended.

The statement was postponed, however, as Netanyahu met heads of the coalition parties.
 
Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who has been leading the process, said that as a member of the ruling Likud party he would respect whatever decision Netanyahu reached.

“A situation in which everyone does as they wish is liable to bring about the instant fall of the government and collapse of Likud,” he said.

Additionally, Israel’s embassy in India is also participating in the strike against the hard-right government. 

Officials of all Israeli missions in India and around the world will remain on strike until it is called off.

Meanwhile, IDF (defence) Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi issued a public letter addressed to all active and reserve servicemen, saying that Israel “has never known such days of external threats combining with an internal storm.”

“Our enemies must know that we are standing guard and nobody is deserting,” Halevi says. “I am responsible that every mission given to you will be aimed at defending the security of Israel and its citizens, and will be in accordance with IDF values.”

He says the place for protest actions is in the public sphere and not in the military.

Furthermore, the High Court of Justice rejected outright a petition requesting that it order PM Benjamin Netanyahu to immediately recuse himself, saying that not all legal avenues have been exhausted to justify a petition to the court.

The Israel Democracy Watch organisation petitioned the High Court yesterday, asking for a court order against Netanyahu, following his announcement that he has started to directly engage with the judicial overhaul legislation his government has advanced.

The petition notes that the court has said Netanyahu is bound by a conflict of interest agreement barring him from dealing with the radical reform package due to his criminal corruption trials.

However supporters of the overhaul were also mobilising with a counter demonstration planned later in front of the Knesset and expected to include football supporters groups such as La Familia.

With fears of violence fuelled by social media posts calling for attacks on left-wing Israelis, police numbers were reinforced to handle possible trouble. In a tweet, Netanyahu appealed to supporters on both sides to avoid violence.

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First Published: Mar 27 2023 | 9:41 PM IST

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