Israel President urges PM to immediately call off planned judicial overhaul

(Update 1: Adds detail throughout on strikes)

Jerusalem, Mar 27 (EFE).- Israel’s president Isaac Herzog Monday urged prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “immediately” stop the planned controversial overhaul of the justice system after it sparked massive street protests.

“For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of responsibility, I call on you to stop the legislative process immediately,” Herzog said on Twitter after the largest protest in Israel’s history Sunday night.

He said “deep concern” surrounded the nation amid threats to its “security, economy, and society.”

“The eyes of all the people of Israel are on you. The eyes of the entire Jewish people are on you. The eyes of the whole world are on you,” he said addressing the prime minister, the members of the coalition and Netanyahu’s cabinet.

Protests have been mounting in Israel with a record 630,000 people taking to the streets over the weekend after Netanyahu sacked defense minister Yoav Gallant after he spoke out against the planned judicial reforms.

Gallant’s removal marked the first fissure in the ruling coalition over the bill that would allow a simple majority of the Knesset – Israel’s parliament – to overturn Supreme Court decisions and give politicians effective control over judicial appointments.

Flights at Israel’s main airport were all grounded on Monday after the Workers’ Union called an indefinite strike.

“I have ordered an immediate halt to takeoffs at the airport,” the head of the union at Ben Gurion Airport, Pinjas Idan, said.

A spokeswoman for Israel’s Airports Authority told Efe that all departures had been canceled. Inbound flights that had already taken off would be allowed to land, she added, although it is not yet clear what will happen with remaining flights scheduled for Monday.

The move came shortly after the General Organization of Workers in Israel, the country’s largest union, announced a general strike across a swathe of sectors amid mounting pressure for Netanyahu to halt the judicial overhaul.

Shortly after, municipal authorities, health centers, shopping centers, and workers in the high-tech sector announced that they would be joining the strike, while universities remained closed.

The widespread dissent is unraveling amid rumors Netanyahu is to address the nation over the controversial reforms at some point on Monday, local media have reported.

Netanyahu last week called for dialogue and tried to reassure women, the LGBTQ+ community and secular Israelis that reducing the authority of the Supreme Court would not jeopardize civil and personal rights.

The planned reforms would limit the Supreme Court’s ability from reviewing and changing “Basic Laws” and would also grant immunity to new laws even if these contradict Israel’s Basic Laws, the country’s quasi-constitution.

Lawmakers recently approved another bill that would seriously limit the ability of the Supreme Court to remove a prime minister from office, as Netanyahu faces several corruption charges. EFE


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