Israeli media outlets are reporting that far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce a to pause his judicial overhaul plan, despite calls from some of his ministers, such as the racist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, for him to not back down. But the pressure on Netanyahu is mounting, with the country’s main labor union announcing a general strike, and calling for the prime minister to withdraw his plan.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in cities across Israel in a spontaneous outburst of anger on Sunday after Netanyahu fired his defense minister for challenging his judicial overhaul plan.
Communist Party of Israel leading member, Efraim Davidi, during a protest held on Monday morning near the Histadrut headquarters in Tel-Aviv, March 27, 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)
Protesters in Tel Aviv blocked a main highway late on Sunday and lit large bonfires, while police scuffled with protesters who gathered outside Netanyahu’s private home in Jerusalem. Clashes were reported in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beer Sheva, Pardes Hana and other localities as police moved in to clear highways and routes.
“What the government wants to do is not to correct or to fix or amend the judicial system, so that it will be more just. Exactly the opposite. They want to take control over the judicial system,” said MK Ofer Cassif. “I think that we should refer to the situation not as a judicial overhaul, but as a regime coup,” he told Al Jazeera. “Netanyahu wants to turn Israel from an ethnocracy – because Israel in my view has never been a democracy, because this state is based on a Jewish supremacy, so it cannot be regarded as a democracy from the first place – but it’s going to be under the coup that the government wants to pursue, Israel is going to turn into a full-fledged fascist dictatorship.”
On Monday morning, Histadrut Secretary General Arnon Bar-David has called an immediate general strike until the judicial overhaul is halted. In a dramatic statement this morning Bar-David said, “This is an historic strike in which workers and employers will together halt the judicial overhaul.” The strike has quickly snowballed. All takeoffs have been stopped at Ben Gurion airport and many shopping malls have shut down. Many businesses especially in the tech sector have joined the strike and banks and local authorities are also striking.
Speaking to during a demonstration near the Histadrut headquarters in Tel-Aviv on Monday morning, protester and former Histadrut leading member, Efraim Davidi said: “Benjamin Netanyahu must go home. This judicial overhaul has to stop – it has to be thrown off the table and never to be spoken of again.” “We must fight against fascism and for a truly democracy, without racism, without class exploitation and without occupation”, he said to hundreds of protesters. “We have been seeing in the past few days that the person who is responsible for allowing this group of extremists to try to turn Israel into a fascist dictatorship is Benjamin Netanyahu,” added.
Following a special meeting held on Sunday night by the heads of the universities in Israel, it was decided that the research institutions in Israel will halt classes starting on Monday morning. “We, the heads of Israel’s research universities, presidents, rectors and administrations, will stop studies in all of Israel’s research universities starting tomorrow morning, against the background of the continuation of the legislative process that undermines the foundations of Israeli democracy and endangers its continued existence,” said a statement published by the heads of the universities. Following the announcement, a long list of colleges decided to join the universities, among them Bezalel, the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, Ruppin Academic Center, Tel-Hai Academic College, the College of Management Academic Studies and Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art. In adittion, the National Student and Youth Council, representing high school and middle school students, declares a nationwide strike. The council calls for “halting the overhaul legislation.”