Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced mounting pressure on Monday to pause his government’s plan to enact sweeping changes to the country’s judiciary after protests engulfed the country.
Israel’s top trade union chief called a general strike and vowed to continue the fight if the government does not delay the proposal, Reuters reported. “Bring back the country’s sanity,” Histadrut chairperson Arnon Bar-David said.
The country’s main seaports, banks, hospitals and medical services are also planning a strike. Take-offs from the international airport are suspended as well.
The Benjamin Netanyahu-led coalition has been pushing for changes that would give the government greater control over the selection of Supreme Court justices and limit its authority over Parliament.
The reforms would also give the country’s parliament, Knesset, the power to override Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority of 61 votes out of 120, Al Jazeera reported.
Critics say the plan would weaken the judiciary and move the nation away from liberal democracy by giving unbridled power to the government. The prime minister, however, has insisted that the changes are needed to restore the balance between the branches of government.
Notably, the reforms have been introduced amidst a trial against Netanyahu in corruption case.
Israel has been roiled by weeks of protests because of the proposal. The outrage grew on Sunday after Netanyahu fired his staunch ally and defence minister Yoav Gallant for speaking against the reforms, the BBC reported.
The minister had urged the government to delay its overhaul of the judiciary because disputes related to it threaten Israel’s security. “The rift within our society is widening and penetrating the Israel defence forces,” he added. “This is a clear and immediate and tangible danger to the security of the state. I shall not be a party to this.”
On March 6, fighter pilots from Israeli Air Force squadron protested against the proposed changes by vowing not to attend training, reported the BBC. The protest from country’s defence forces was unprecedented and indicated rising discontent among the citizens.
Tens of thousands of protesters returned to the streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem after Gallant was sacked.
Netanyahu’s decision to sack Gallant seemed to indicate the government’s intention to vote on the first part of the legislation in Parliament early this week.
On Monday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog also urged the government to halt the reforms.
“Deep concern surrounds the entire nation,” Herzog said. “Security, the economy, society – all are threatened. The eyes of all the people of Israel are on you. For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of the responsibility, I call on you to stop the legislative process immediately.”