After weeks of mass protests, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave in to his controversial judicial reform and announced a temporary halt to the project. “I have decided to suspend the second and third readings in this session,” Netanyahu said in Jerusalem. The legislative proposal will therefore be submitted to Parliament for a vote at the end of April at the earliest.
“We are in the midst of a crisis that threatens our essential unity,” Netanyahu continued. He warned of a civil war that must not come about. “Everyone must act responsibly,” he said. So he stretches out his hand for dialogue.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir previously said he had reached an agreement with Netanyahu on a postponement. In return, a “national guard” is to be set up under the leadership of the far-right politician. What this means in concrete terms was not initially clear. According to the media, Ben-Gvir threatened to resign if Netanyahu dropped the reform plans for the judiciary.
Organizers of the demonstrations, which have been going on for weeks, announced that they would continue the protests. A temporary freeze is not enough and national protests will continue to escalate until the law is rejected in the Knesset, it said in a statement.
Previously, tens of thousands of people had flocked to the streets to protest against the government’s controversial plans. In the course of a general strike, air traffic was severely disrupted. Tens of thousands of travelers were affected.
The umbrella organization of the trade unions in Israel had called for the walkout to stop the “madness” of the government. Many workers elsewhere followed the call of the umbrella organization called Histadrut, which has around 800,000 members. Several shopping centers and universities in the country remained closed.
Israeli embassies worldwide followed, and high-tech companies joined. The dynamic start-up scene is considered the most important driver of the Israeli economy. Hospitals were also affected by the strike. They worked in a scaled-down shift system.
Tensions had increased over the weekend after Netanyahu ousted Defense Minister Joav Galant over criticism of the reform. Months of protests against a plan that would give the government control over the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court intensified.
The coalition around Netanyahu accuses the Supreme Court of excessive interference in political decisions. In the future, for example, Parliament should be able to overturn decisions of the Supreme Court with a simple majority. In addition, the composition of the body for appointing judges is to be changed. Critics see the independence of the judiciary and thus democracy in Israel in danger.
In particular, Netanyahu’s coalition partner Ben-Gvir has opposed a halt to the reform. The government must not “capitulate to anarchy,” he tweeted. In the Knesset, the majority of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is based on an alliance with conservatives, religious fundamentalists and right-wing nationalists.
uh/qu/sth (dpa, rtr)