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Israel in chaos as workers strike, ports close and officials protest over Netanyahu's judicial overh

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Israel in chaos as workers strike, ports close and officials protest over Netanyahu's judicial overhaul plan
NBC News, Mar 27, 2023

Israel was paralyzed after hundreds of thousands of people stopped working Monday to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's unprecedented plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system.

It followed widespread unrest Sunday night, after Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who became the first member of his Likud Party to speak out against the proposed changes. Gallant had warned that divisions over the plans threatened Israel’s security.

Tens of thousands protested in Tel Aviv, where demonstrators were sprayed with water cannons. Beersheba, Haifa and Jerusalem also saw unrest. At one point, crowds in Jerusalem gathered outside Netanyahu’s home and broke through a security cordon, Reuters reported.

Israel’s diplomatic staff were on strike Monday on the advice of their trade union, one diplomat who was not authorized to brief the media told NBC News. Israel’s embassies in Washington and around the world shut as a result and some diplomats replaced their social media profile pictures with the Israeli flag.

Netanyahu appealed for calm in the afternoon as thousands flooded the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, waving Israeli flags and placards.

“I call on all the demonstrators in Jerusalem, on the right and the left, to behave responsibly and not to act violently. We are brothers,” he said on Twitter.

The proposal by Netanyahu's hard-right coalition in January would threaten the independence of the Supreme Court and limit judges’ powers, according to critics. It has faced stiff opposition, with Israelis regularly taking to the streets to demonstrate.

The unrest brought many daily operations to a halt. Israel's airport authority confirmed just before 11 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET) that all departing flights from Ben-Gurion International Airport would be grounded.

Two of Israel’s main seaports, Haifa and Ashdod, said in separate statements seen by Reuters that they would shut down in support of the general strike.

Big brands are taking part in the protest: McDonald's said it would begin closing its restaurants across the country from midday (5 a.m. ET) before a full national closure from 2 p.m. (7 a.m. ET).

Israel’s leading universities will also be closed Monday in protest against both Netanyahu's judicial overhaul plan and Gallant’s firing.


Israel Boils as Netanyahu Ousts Minister Who Bucked Court Overhaul
NY Times, Mar 26, 2023

Civil unrest broke out in parts of Israel Sunday night after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister for criticizing the government’s divisive judicial overhaul, prompting protesters to surge into the streets, universities to shut their doors, and union leaders to hint of a looming general strike.

Announced in a one-line statement by the prime minister’s office, the dismissal of Yoav Gallant intensified an already dramatic domestic crisis — one of the gravest in Israeli history — set off by the government’s attempt to give itself greater control over the selection of Supreme Court justices and to limit the court’s authority over Parliament.

Mr. Gallant’s dismissal unleashed chaotic late-night demonstrations in and around Tel Aviv, where protesters blocked a multilane highway and set fires in at least two major roads, and in Jerusalem, where crowds broke through police barriers outside Mr. Netanyahu’s private residence.


Mr. Gallant was fired after he urged on Saturday night that the judicial legislation be postponed, warning that it was causing turmoil in the military and was therefore a threat to Israel’s security.

“The rift within our society is widening and penetrating the Israel Defense Forces,” Mr. Gallant said in a televised speech a day before he was dismissed. The schisms, he said, have caused “a clear and immediate and tangible danger to the security of the state — I shall not be a party to this.”

His declaration  followed a surge in military reservists’ refusing to fulfill their volunteer duty in protest of the judicial overhaul. Military leaders had warned that a decline in reservists, who form a key part of the air force pilot corps, might soon affect the military’s operational capacity.

Mr. Netanyahu did not issue a full explanation for his decision to fire Mr. Gallant. But briefing Israeli news reporters, his office said that Mr. Gallant had not done enough to dissuade reservists from refusing to serve, implying that Mr. Gallant had helped stoke the security risks he warned of.

If Mr. Netanyahu’s goal in firing Mr. Gallant was to muscle through the judicial changes, presenting his country with a fait accompli and neutralizing the opposition, it may have backfired. As unruly as some of the protests have been to date, none matched the intensity of the ones that materialized spontaneously late Sunday within minutes of the prime minister’s announcement.

“There comes a time in the history of a people or a person or an organization when you have to stand up and be counted,” Daniel Chamovitz​​, president of Ben-Gurion University, one of the colleges that announced it would shut its doors Monday, said in a phone interview. “With what’s happened in Israel over the past three months, and definitely over the past three hours, we decided that the time had come for us to make a stand.”

The protests were so fierce that governing lawmakers, who hours earlier had seemed confident of voting in their changes in the coming days, began to express doubts that they could do so.


Over 100k at Knesset as PM delays planned speech; right organizes counter-protest
Times of Israel, Mar 27, 2023

The prime minister had originally been expected to speak in the morning, but his address was delayed again and again as he huddled with coalition leaders, amid reported threats by Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir to quit, and as Religious Zionism chief Bezalel Smotrich called on the right to show up in droves for the pro-overhaul rally. Justice Minister Yariv Levin, after fighting tooth and nail in recent weeks against a halt to the legislation he led, said it was now up to Netanyahu to decide how to proceed.

The fresh rallies came after Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant Sunday evening for publicly calling to pause the shakeup, a move that led to major overnight protests throughout the country and particularly in Tel Aviv, followed by declarations by the Histadrut labor federation and others of a general strike.

Amid the burgeoning unrest, a Knesset committee approved for its final plenum readings a highly contentious bill that would give the coalition broad control over the selection of judges and the Supreme Court chief — even as the premier appeared poised to mothball it.




JUST IN - PM Netanyahu says "we can not have a civil war" in Israel and postpones judicial reform until summer.

1:15 PM · Mar 27, 2023


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