Tens of thousands of Israelis poured into the streets of cities across the country in a spontaneous outburst of anger after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly fired his defence minister for challenging the Israeli leader’s judicial changes plan.
Protesters in Tel Aviv blocked a main highway and lit large bonfires while police scuffled with protesters who gathered outside Netanyahu’s private home in Jerusalem on Sunday night.
The unrest deepened a months-long crisis over Netanyahu’s plan to modify the judiciary’s powers, which has sparked mass protests, alarmed business leaders and former security chiefs, and drawn concern from the United States and other close allies.
Netanyahu’s dismissal of Defence Minister Yoav Gallant signalled that the prime minister was not willing to listen to his own party members. Gallant had been the first senior member of the ruling Likud party to speak out against the plan, saying the deep divisions were threatening to weaken the military.
As droves of protesters flooded the streets late into the night, Likud ministers seemed more willing to hit the brakes. Culture Minister Micky Zohar, a Netanyahu confidant, said the party would support him if he decided to pause the legislation.
Netanyahu on Monday postponed a public statement in which he had been expected to call a halt to the legislation after a coalition ally urged him not to back down, Channel 12 TV reported.
The head of Israel’s largest trade union group said it would launch a general strike. The decision by the Histadrut – which represents more than 700,000 workers in numerous sectors from banks to transportation to health workers – could paralyse large parts of Israel’s economy.
Arnon Bar-David, the group’s head, said he made the decision to steer Israel away from “an abyss”.