Israel delays judicial reform vote until after recess, Jewish Power Party says after mass strike

Malls and restaurants closed, and flights are grounded as Netanyahu calls for demonstrators not to commit acts of violence.

Published: March 27, 2023 9:12am

Updated: March 27, 2023 11:49am

Israel is delaying a vote on proposed judicial reform legislation until the next session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in April, the Jewish Power Party said Monday after mass protests put the country at a standstill.

Jewish Power Party leader National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said, as translated: "I agreed to remove my veto on the postponement of the legislation, in exchange for a commitment from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the legislation will be brought to the Knesset for approval in the next session, if no agreements are reached during the recess," according to Israel Channel 7.

At the same time, Netanyahu reached an agreement to establish the National Guard under Ben-Gvir at the next cabinet meeting.

Israel was frozen Monday as malls and restaurants closed and flights were grounded out of Tel Aviv in a major demonstration against the proposed judicial reform. 

Arnon Bar-David, leader of Israel's largest union, Histadrut, said Monday that the protests are "historic" and include everyone from CEOs to former Israel Security Agency members. He said the massive protests are the result of Netanyahu's dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who criticized the proposed judicial reform. 

Gallant, who is also a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party, on Saturday asked for the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, to pause its consideration of the judicial legislation over security concerns surrounding protests against the reform.

Israel's main airport, Ben Gurion Tel Aviv, halted all departing flights on Monday, according to CNN. Local outlet HML said that by the afternoon some foreign flights were able to take off as well as the flights of passengers seeking medical treatment out of the country.

McDonald's said it has closed all of its restaurants in solidarity with the Histadrut strike. "Hoping for better days," the fast food chain wrote in a translated statement.

The Azrieli Group, a major Israeli mall chain, also closed Monday in support of the strikes. 

The proposed reform, which Netanyahu's coalition expected to pass this week, would give elected officials more power in confirming Supreme Court justices, lower the retirement age for justices to 67 and allow the Knesset to overrule court decisions through a simple majority vote.

"I call on all the demonstrators in Jerusalem, on the right and the left, to behave responsibly and not to act violently," Netanyahu tweeted in response to the latest round of protests.

Despite the uproar, Israel's Supreme Court on Monday rejected a last-resort petition from the group Defenders of Israeli Democracy calling to remove Netanyahu from office over a perceived conflict of interest with the judicial reform legislation, according to The Jerusalem Post.

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