The President of Israel, isaac herzogmade an urgent appeal to the Prime Minister on Monday, Benjamin Netanyahuto “act responsibly and courageously” and stop “immediately” the legislative process of the controversial judicial reform that divides the country.
“For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of the necessary responsibility, I ask you to stop the legislative process immediately,” Herzog said in a statement amid the biggest protests in its history and on the verge of death. general strike.
Netanyahu dismissed his Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, last night, after he publicly asked to stop the judicial reform, the first critical voice within the Government, which unleashed massive and impromptu demonstrations across the countrywith the assistance of more than 650,000 people, which is expected to be repeated this Monday.
“Last night we witnessed very difficult scenes,” Herzog said of the protests, in which demonstrators set bonfires to block traffic on Tel Aviv’s main highways or broke down the fences protecting the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, where police used water cannons to disperse them.
The main universities of the country last night already declared an indefinite strike and the country’s main union announced a general strikewhile a group of 23 mayors intend to start a hunger strike today in protest of the reform, which has unleashed a broad social response from multiple sectors.
“I appeal to the Prime Minister, the members of the Government and the Coalition: there are hard and painful feelings. The entire nation is absorbed in deep concern. Our security, economy, society, all are under threat”, cried Herzog, who two weeks ago presented an alternative judicial reform proposal to satisfy all parties, which was immediately rejected by the Executive.
The president, who has held numerous meetings with representatives of all sectors and politicians from all parties, then warned that the country was on the verge of a “civil war.”
“I call on the leaders of all factions in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), both coalition and opposition, to to put citizens above all else and act boldly and responsibly without further delay”, added the president. “Wake up now! This is not the time for political games; it is a moment of leadership and responsibility,” he urged.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant -a veteran of Likud, Netanyahu’s party- was the first member of his government to express concern about the social impact of the reform, which he considered a “imminent danger to the security of the country”, after thousands of elite reservists refused to serve in the Army in protest of that legislation.
israel leads thirteen consecutive weeks of protests since the new Netanyahu government announced its judicial reform plan at the beginning of January -just six days after assuming power-, which essentially seeks to reduce the independence of Justice and increase government control over it.
Among its controversial measures it includes the “annulment clause”, by which a parliamentary majority could reverse rulings of the Supreme Court; in addition to giving the government almost total control over the election of judges and allows political officials to fill the positions of legal advisers to the ministries.
For this reason, its detractors see the reform as a threat to Israeli democracy by violating the separation of powers; while its defenders believe that the Israeli Supreme Court meddles too much in politics and its power needs to be limited.
The head of the Histadrut, Israel’s big trade union federation, added to the pressure and called for a immediate general strike this Monday to force the arrest of judicial reform.
“From the moment this press conference ends, the State of Israel stands still.”, Arnon Bar-David said in a message broadcast on television.
The College of Physicians quickly announced a “total strike in the health system”, which will impact public hospitals.
In turn, the Ben Gurion International Airport, the main one in Israel, canceled the takeoff of flights after a strike was declared by its workers. “I ordered the immediate stoppage of takeoffs,” announced today the president of the airport workers’ union, Pinjas Idán.
The project promoted by the Netanyahu government, one of the most right-wing in the history of Israel, seeks increase the power of politicians over judges and decrease the role of the Supreme Court.
Its detractors consider that the reform threatens the separation of powers and therefore the democratic character of the State of Israel, and the rejection of the project generated in the last three months one of the largest popular protest movements in the country’s history.
In the mobilization on Sunday, the protesters occupied a large avenue that crosses Tel Aviv and set up barricades and bonfires. The police responded by firing water cannons.
Protesters waved Israeli flags and chanted slogans such as “Israel is not a dictatorship!” and “No to a fascist government.”
(With information from EFE and AFP)
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