Israel’s President has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for help in stopping the legislative process. The PM caused widespread protests and a strike when he fired his defense minister over objections to judicial reforms.
Mr Netanyahu was to announce this morning that they were halting their plans. However, his public statement was delayed after a coalition ally advised him to not back down, Channel 12 TV reported.
After the strike call by the Israel Airports Authority worker’s committee, all flights at Ben Gurion Airport were grounded.
After Sunday’s dismissal by Yoav Galant, President Isaac Herzog, who is supposed not to be above politics, stated that “the eyes of all the world are on” him.
As an increasing number of reservists from the Israeli Defence Force go on strike to protest against the government’s proposals, Mr Gallant broke ranks.
These proposals would allow ministers to have greater control over the appointment of judges, including the Supreme Court. However, it would also reduce the body’s ability veto legislation and rule against the government.
Critics claim that Mr Netanyahu is in a conflict of interests because of his corruption trial. He is facing charges of fraud, breaching trust and accepting bribes. However, he dismisses the claims that the legal reform was designed to allow him to escape trial.
On Sunday night, thousands protestors gathered to block Tel Aviv’s main road and break barricades in the vicinity of Mr Netanyahu’s Jerusalem home.
Demonstrations were also held in Beersheba, Haifa and elsewhere – just before the head of Israel’s largest union group declared a general strike/
Histadrut is more than 700,000. It spans many sectors including transportation, banks, health workers and transportation.
Arnon Bar David, the leader of the group, stated that he took the decision to steer Israel out of “an abyss.”
In the meantime, Mr Herzog stated that he was addressing the prime Minister, members of government, and companies as well as members of coalition members. The feelings are painful and difficult. The entire nation is in deep concern.
“Security and the economy are all under threat. All the eyes of Israel are focused on you. All eyes are focused on you. You are the eyes of all people.
“I call upon you to immediately stop the legislative process for the good of the unity of Israel’s people and the accountability of Israel.
“I appeal to all heads of Knesset factions, coalitions and opposition, to place the citizens of the country first, and to act with responsibility and courage without further delay.
“Come to your senses immediately!” This is not a political time, but a moment of leadership and responsibility.
Adrienne Watson, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, stated that she was continuing to urge Israeli leaders to reach a compromise. This is our view of the best way forward for Israel, and all its citizens.
“As Joe Biden, the president, recently spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the importance of democratic values in the US-Israel relationship.
“Democratic societies can be strengthened by checks, balances, and fundamental reforms to a democracy system should be pursued in the broadest base of support.”
In the largest protests against the judiciary plan in the country’s 75 year history, people have marched to the streets for the past 13 weeks.
Sky’s Alistair Bunkall was told by one of the demonstrators that Sunday’s demonstration had shown concern about the proposed overhaul of our judiciary.
He said, “I’m really afraid for the future of our country.”
Israel’s democracy is on the edge?
Protests will continue throughout the week as the right-wing, conservative government pushes its proposals through Knesset, its legislative body. Universities also announced a general strike on Monday.
The Israeli police chief stated that officers will not tolerate public disturbances or damage to government symbols.
Netanyahu is a ‘threat to security’
Asaf Zamir, Israel’s consul general to New York, resigned hours after Gallant was fired.
He stated that it was now time to “join the fight for Israel’s future”.
Yair Lapid, the leader of the Opposition, tweeted that Mr Netanyahu was “a threat to security of Israel”
Gallant called for a pause on the legislation after next month’s Independence Day holidays. He cited a threat to Israel’s national security.
He declared loudly that he would stop the legislative process for Israel’s security and for the safety of his children and grandchildren.
His office did not give further information, but the minister of public diplomacy said that Mr. Gallant was informed about his dismissal after he was summoned to the PM’s office.
He was told by Mr Netanyahu that he “doesn’t have any faith” in him anymore, and he was fired.
The significant moment is the breaking of ranks by the Defence Minister
Gallant stated, in a statement made after his dismissal: “The security and stability of the state Israel has always been and always will remain the mission my life.”
He has not yet been replaced.
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Gallant was not the only one to express concern about the Israeli protests.
Shin Bet’s head of internal intelligence, Shin Bet, and the IDF chief-of-staff have warned about the negative effects of reforms on Israel’s security.
Protest by hundreds of Israeli military reservists, they have taken to the streets and threatened the military’s operational capabilities.
Mr Netanyahu is siding with far-right voices in his coalition by firing Gallant. This effectively means that he is supporting the people who are entrusted to Israel’s security.
Benny Gantz (the previous defense minister) has accused Netanyahu of placing “politics and his own security above all else”.
Yair Lapid, the main opposition leader and ex-prime minister, described it as “an act de madness” that indicated a complete lack in judgment.
Gallant stated that he tried to voice his concerns privately and asked for cabinet meetings to discuss a better way forward.
He was ignored and has been punished for expressing his opinions in public.
The security situation is still fragile in the West Bank, as it has been for many decades.
The talk of a Third Intifada has increased and Ramadan, a holy Muslim month, is being seen to be a pivotal moment.
It is a difficult decision to remove the defense minister at this time.
Three other members of Mr Netanyahu’s party supported Mr Gallant when he spoke out last evening.
His firing could make those views more extreme and put at risk Mr Netanyahu’s four-member majority in the Knesset. Others who have doubts might feel pressured to speak up if they are also politicians.
Both sides are not backing down. The number of national demonstrations is increasing almost daily and Mr Netanyahu stated that he will continue to push for reforms at the same pace as before the Passover recess.
It’s difficult to imagine a solution for Israel’s current crisis.