Two major ports in Israel announced Monday that they would stop operations due to a strike in protest against the government’s plan for judicial reforms.
Haifa Port and Ashdod Port said in separate statements that work had stopped after Israel’s main labor union announced a general strike earlier Monday until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abandons legislation on the judicial amendments.
Some banks have also suspended their operations due to the protests sweeping through Israel.
And the Israeli newspaper (Haaretz) reported today, Monday, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intention to suspend the judicial amendments, which sparked widespread protests, after consultations with the leaders of the government coalition.
The newspaper reported that the prime minister is expected to announce the suspension of legislation on judicial amendments later in the day.
The General Confederation of Trade Unions in Israel called for an immediate “general strike” on Monday in response to the government’s proposed judicial reform project, which has sparked widespread protests in the country for three months.
“I call for a general strike (…) After this press conference, the movement in the State of Israel will stop,” Arnon Bar-David, head of the Histadrut federation, said in a televised speech.
The protest will continue
“We have a mission, we have to stop this legislative process and we will do it,” he added, pledging to “continue to protest.”
The medical unions in Israel then announced a “comprehensive strike in the health sector” that would have an inevitable impact on all medical services.
Lisa Dvir, a spokeswoman for the Israel Airports Authority, confirmed to AFP that the strike would include flights at Ben Gurion Airport near coastal Tel Aviv.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to address the nation later Monday. Reports stated that he is heading to stop controversial legislative amendments.
The call for the general strike came hours after an appeal to Israeli President Isaac Herzog to immediately halt judicial reforms, after clashes were recorded between demonstrators and police in Tel Aviv last night, protesting the dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant from office.
The minister’s dismissal came after his call on Saturday to freeze judicial reforms for a month, expressing fears for Israel’s security.
Powers of parliament and the judiciary
Herzog said, “In the name of the unity of the people of Israel (..) I call on you to immediately stop” the legislative path that causes divisions in the country.
The reform project proposed by Netanyahu’s government, one of Israel’s most right-wing governments, aims to strengthen parliament’s power at the expense of the judiciary.
Netanyahu and his allies believe that the reform aims to strike a balance between the powers of parliament and the judiciary, which they see as politicized.
Protests have been organized against the project for nearly three months, in a mobilization considered one of the largest in the history of Israel. Over the weekend, more than 200,000 Israelis took to the streets to protest.
On Sunday, Washington called for a “settlement” after Biden expressed “concerns” about the project to amend the judicial system in Israel, according to his spokeswoman, Karen Jean-Pierre.
Gallant is a staunch ally of Netanyahu and took office in December as part of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition.
Gallant called on Saturday to “stop the legislative mechanism” for a month, as “major changes must take place through consultation and dialogue.”
Parliament is scheduled to vote this week on an important and central part of the proposals related to the mechanism for appointing judges.
“The social division has made its way to (the army) and the security services,” said Gallant, who also called for an end to the protests, noting that this represents “a clear, immediate and tangible threat to Israel’s security.”
And the police said on Sunday night, Monday, that the demonstrators set tires on fire, while a journalist in France Press monitored the burning of a sofa, and lit firewood in other places, and closed the Ayalon highway.
The demonstrators carried blue and white flags, chanting slogans including “Bibi, leave!”, using Netanyahu’s nickname.
The resignation of the Consul General in New York
Other spontaneous gatherings were also recorded in front of the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem and in other cities such as Haifa (north) and Beersheba (south), according to local media, outside ministers’ homes and in front of Parliament.
Protester Trevor Gallor said he “can’t believe what’s happening in Israel”.
“This reform … is insane, and Israel has become a dangerous place to live right now,” said Galor, 52, who owns a tourism company.
Two Likud MPs announced on Twitter Saturday their support for Galant, which raises questions about whether the government will be able to secure a majority for the project if it proceeds to vote on it in Parliament.
Hours after Galant’s dismissal, the Israeli Consul General in New York resigned. “The political situation in Israel has reached a critical point,” Assaf Zamir, who has held this position for 18 months, said in a tweet, describing the dismissal decision as “dangerous.”
Centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid commented on the decision in a tweet, saying, “Netanyahu can expel Galant, but he cannot expel the truth and he cannot expel the people of Israel who oppose the insanity of the ruling coalition.”
“The prime minister of Israel is (in himself) a threat to Israel’s security,” he added.
reprieve from the Supreme Court
The opposition, to which a parliamentary committee presented an amended version of the bill, ruled out supporting any part of the reform package until all legislative steps are halted.
The judiciary warned Netanyahu that his interference in the project to amend the judicial system was “illegal” in light of the continuation of his trial on charges of corruption, which he in turn denies.
On Sunday, Israel’s Supreme Court gave Netanyahu one week to respond to a petition filed by a non-governmental organization calling for his conviction in “contempt of court”.
According to the petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel and seen by Agence France-Presse, Netanyahu, who has previously been charged in a number of corruption cases, violated an agreement concluded with the judiciary stipulating that an accused prime minister cannot take measures in an area that To put him in a situation of conflict of interest, according to a decision issued by the Supreme Court in 2020.