Late-night blocking of Tel Aviv highway triggered by PM’s firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
President Isaac Herzog, in a statement following the protests, called for an immediate halt to the legislative process. ”There are harsh and painful feelings. The entire nation is rapt with deep worry. Our security, economy, society—all are under threat,” he said.
Religious Zionism Party opposes halt of judicial reform
By JNS and EJP
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to deliver a speech on Monday morning after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets Sunday night to protest his firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
Netanyahu sacked Gallant on Sunday night after the latter called for a halt to the government’s judicial reform initiative in a televised address to the nation.
After the announcement, mass demonstrations took place across the country with protesters in Tel Aviv blocking the Ayalon Highway in both directions before being dispersed by mounted police and water cannons. The road reopened to traffic hours after it was cleared.
Netanyahu and his political allies held emergency meetings throughout the night. The premier is expected to publicly address the calls to stop the legislative push for judicial reform and the firing of Gallant.
President Isaac Herzog, in a statement following the protests, called for an immediate halt to the legislative process.
“Last night we witnessed very difficult scenes. I appeal to the prime minister, members of the government, and members of the coalition: There are harsh and painful feelings. The entire nation is rapt with deep worry. Our security, economy, society—all are under threat,” Herzog said.
ראינו הלילה מחזות קשים מאד.
אני פונה לראש הממשלה, חברי הממשלה וחברות וחברי הקואליציה: התחושות קשות וכואבות. דאגה עמוקה אופפת את כל העם. הבטחון, הכלכלה, החברה – כולם מאויימים. עיני כל העם בישראל נשואות אליכם. עיני כל העם היהודי נשואות אליכם. עיני כל העולם נשואות אליכם.
— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) March 27, 2023
The president continued: “The whole people of Israel is looking at you. The whole Jewish people is looking at you. The whole world is looking at you.
“For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of the necessary responsibility, I call on you to halt the legislative process immediately. I appeal to the leaders of all Knesset factions, coalition and opposition alike, to place this country’s citizens above all else and to act with courage and responsibility without further delay. Wake up now! This is not a political moment; this is a moment for leadership and responsibility,” Herzog said.
A mass demonstration is planned in front of the Knesset on Monday afternoon.
The Histadrut Jewish labor federation said it would announce a general strike on Monday, with universities throughout the country also joining in.
On Monday morning, MK Simcha Rothman, the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, was convening a meeting for the final committee votes on the bill to change the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee, part of the coalition’s legal reform program.
Religious Zionism party opposes halt of judicial reform
“After much deliberation and consultation, our position is that the legislation should not be stopped in any way. Stopping the legislation would be a surrender to violence, anarchy, reluctance and the tyranny of the minority and would ruin the election results. We were and remain followers of discourse, compromises and agreements, but not under threats of a coup by the centers of power on Israeli democracy,” the party, led by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, said in a statement following reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu is planning to stop the legislation.
“We were duly elected and received a clear mandate from the people to restore balance to Israeli democracy. We owe it to the majority of the people to make their voice heard and to continue this important historical correction,” the party statement added.
“After the passage of the legislation that will balance the composition of the committee for the appointment of judges, it will be possible to stop and reach out to talk with anyone who wishes to do so, from a position of mutual respect and recognition of the election results and not from violent coercion of minority opinions,” it said.
Meanwhile, a general strike has been called across Israel. Arnon Bar David, Chair of the Histadrut, National Israeli Trade Union, said “Today we are facing a historic moment where workers and employers together join hands, and together close the State of Israel”.
As part of the strike, all departures from Ben Gurion Airport have been halted.
In Tel Aviv, thousands of people blocked the main Ayalon motorway for several hours. Eventually the police were forced to use water cannons and mounted police to disperse them.
In Jerusalem, protestors broke through up to the final barrier outside the prime minister’s private residence.
Leader of the Opposition Yair Lapid, along with Benny Gantz, issued a joint statement saying, “The country’s security cannot be a bargaining chip in the political game. Netanyahu crossed a red line this evening. We call on the Likud ministers, on the Likud MKs, do not lend a hand to destroying national security. Anyone who takes the job of defence minister will bring shame onto himself. The eyes of the people look to you in hope. It is still possible to stop.”
Former Prime Minister Bennett told Channel 12 News, “The State of Israel is in the greatest danger it has been since the Yom Kippur War. I call on the prime minister to retract his letter of dismissal to Gallant, to suspend the reform and to pause until after Independence Day. It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong. I call on all the demonstrators and on all Israeli citizens—do everything without violence, without bloodshed. We are brothers.”