Amid the protests, Isaac Herzog called on the government to “immediately stop the legislative process” to adopt judicial reform. Universities went on strike, and some mayors and heads of regional councils announced a hunger strike.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog has called on the government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and members of the ruling coalition to stop the adoption of the controversial judicial reform.
“For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, in the interest of responsible behavior, I urge you to immediately stop the legislative process,” he wrote on Twitter on Monday, 27 March. – “The eyes of the entire Jewish people are on you.
Strike in academic society
At the same time, as reported by The Times of Israel, a group of universities announced a general strike starting on the morning of 27 March in connection with the government’s plans and the dismissal of the country’s Defence Minister Yoav Galant, who openly criticized the reforms promoted by the Netanyahu government.
The heads of universities, rectors, and senior staff will stop studying as the legislative process continues, which “undermines the foundations of Israeli democracy and threatens its continued existence,” the statement said. Its authors demand that the Prime Minister and the coalition immediately begin negotiations to reach a coherent and broad consensus.
The US calls for a compromise
Washington has already stated that it is “deeply concerned” about what is happening in Israel. The White House has called on the Israeli authorities to find a compromise amid mass protests.
“Democratic societies are strengthened by a system of checks and balances, and fundamental changes in the democratic system must take place with the broadest possible popular support,” said Adrienne Watson, the White House National Security Council press secretary, in a statement.
“We continue to urge Israeli leaders to reach a compromise as soon as possible. We believe that this is the best way forward for Israel and all of its citizens,” he said, adding that the United States’ support for Israel’s security and democracy remains unchanged.
Netanyahu holds consultations with cabinet members
According to The Jerusalem Post, Benjamin Netanyahu met with cabinet ministers from the evening of 26 March until late at night. According to the newspaper, the discussions were attended by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Education Minister Yoav Kisch, and Strategic Planning Minister Ron Dermer.
Citing sources in Netanyahu’s Likud party, the newspaper writes that Dermer and Kisch tried to convince the prime minister to suspend the reform. Levin, for his part, insisted on pushing ahead with the bill, threatening to resign. According to the Ynet news portal, coalition leaders will continue discussing further actions on 27 March.
Prime Minister dismisses Israel’s defense minister
On 25 March, Yoav Galant, who served as Minister of Defence, called on the government to stop the judicial reform to preserve national security.
“The split within the country has penetrated deeply into the IDF and the defense structures, and this is a clear and present danger to Israel’s security. I will not allow this to happen,” he said. According to The Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu then summoned Gallant to his office and personally informed him “of the loss of trust”.
The prime minister was criticized by some of his colleagues from his Likud party, as well as by the former head of the Israeli government, opposition leader Yair Lapid. He said that “state security cannot be a card in a political game” and that Netanyahu had “crossed a red line” with his decision.
At the same time, Israel’s Consul General in New York, Asaf Zamir, resigned. According to the diplomat, “it is time for him to join the fight for Israel’s future so that it remains a beacon of democracy and freedom in the world.”
“National Paralysis Week”
Following reports of Galant’s release, protesters took to the streets of several Israeli cities. Police used water cannons to disperse the crowd.
Israel has declared a “National Week of Paralysis” since 27 March, a series of demonstrations and strikes against judicial reform, which critics consider an encroachment on democracy.
The essence of judicial reform in Israel
The reform should expand the powers of the Cabinet of Ministers to select Supreme Court judges and limit the powers of this judicial body. If the bill is passed, the government will effectively gain full control over the appointment of judges. On 20 February, the Israeli parliament passed the bill in the first reading.