Skip to main content

Live: Netanyahu delays judicial overhaul after strikes cripple Israel

Live
Live: Netanyahu delays judicial overhaul after strikes cripple Israel
Judicial reforms reach boiling point as pressure mounts on Netanyahu to halt bills
Key Points
Hundreds of thousands protest overnight
Ben-Gurion airport shut down
Parliament to vote on bills

Live Updates

10 months ago

Hello MEE readers.

Israelis woke up to chaos on Monday, as protests over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul engulfed the country. Flights were grounded at Ben Gurion International Airport, while Israeli embassies across the world stopped work in solidarity with demonstrators. 

By Monday evening, however, Netanyahu blinked. The Israeli leader announced he was delaying his government’s contentious remake of the country’s courts. 

"Out of a sense of national responsibility, out of a will to prevent a rupture among our people, I have decided to pause the second and third readings of the bill,” he told the country’s legislature.

The move was welcomed by Netanyahu’s opponents. Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said he was ready for dialogue, but only if the government's announced pause was genuine. 

"If the legislation truly and totally stops, we are ready to engage in a real dialogue," Lapid said in a TV address, but wanted to be sure "that there is no ruse or bluff” on Netanyahu’s part. 

Israel's main labour union also called off a nationwide strike Monday night

The White House said it welcomed the delay to move forward with the overhaul and urged the Israeli parties to leave space for compromise.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby, however, told reporters that the US remained concerned about the situation in Israel, adding that Biden had been “very forthright” with Netanyahu about his concerns.

Across Israel, the tensions between pro and anti-government protestors was still palpable. MEE observed the two sides confronting each other at Tel Aviv’s Azrieli junction, a main protest hub. 

A few hundred right-wing protesters gathered at the junction to show support for Netanyahu, carrying signs that said “lefties are traitors”.

We are taking a break in coverage for the moment, but will pick back up soon. To stay updated with the latest news on the crisis, follow us on TwitterInstagramFacebook and TikTok.

10 months ago

Pro and anti-government groups clashed in Tel Aviv on Monday night, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he was delaying his government’s contentious judicial overhaul.


Police prevented thousands of protestors from making their way to Tel Aviv’s main highway from Azraeli junction, a key protest hub.

Judicial protests
Israeli protestors and riot police in Tel Aviv on Mach 27, 2023 (MEE/Orem Ziv)


A few hundred right-wing protesters gathered at the junction to show support for Netanyahu carrying signs that said “lefties are traitors.”


Civil unrest surged in Israel on Monday as tensions over the overhaul of the country’s judiciary grew. Netanyahu said he was delaying the process because there “must not be a civil war” in Israel.

10 months ago

The White House on Monday welcomed the delay to move forward with controversial judicial reforms by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We welcome this announcement as an opportunity to create additional time and space for compromise,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “A compromise is precisely what we have been calling for. And we continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible.”

The US however remains concerned about the situation in Israel, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

Kirby added that Biden shared his concerns about the proposed judicial overhaul directly with Netanyahu.

He said Biden has been “very forthright” with Netanyahu about his concerns. Asked if Biden was worried that Israel would devolve into civil war, Kirby said he was not.

10 months ago

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday that he is delaying his government’s contentious judicial overhaul after mass protests brought Israel to a standstill.

"Out of a sense of national responsibility, out of a will to prevent a rupture among our people, I have decided to pause the second and third readings of the bill,” he told the country’s legislature.

Netanyahu called for an end to refusals by reservists not to serve in the Israeli military. He added that there “must not be a civil war” in Israel.

Following the news, Israel's main labour union called off a nationwide strike.

"The strike that I announced this morning will end," said Arnon Bar-David, chairman of the Histadrut labour federation, on Monday, praising Netanyahu for the move and offering help in forming a reform with mutual agreement.

10 months ago

Israel’s army chief of staff has called on Israeli forces to act with responsibility in the face of massive social upheaval over the government's plans to launch a judicial overhaul.

“This hour is different to any that we have known before. We have not known such days of external threats coalescing, while a storm is brewing at home,” Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi said in remarks made public by the military press office.

10 months ago

Much of Israel ground to a halt on Monday after the union chief called for a general strike. Lily Galili writes from Tel Aviv:

Yoav Gallant’s sacking prompted Likud members and voters to participate in the protests in large numbers for the first time. They share the defence minister’s fear that Israel’s security is at stake.

This was also the sentiment that finally brought in Histadrut, Israel’s largest trade union, which joined the struggle by announcing a historic general strike, including hospitals, universities and the main Israeli gateway, Ben-Gurion airport.

It could not have been achieved without the behind-the-scenes support of the federation of local authorities, most of them headed by Likud representatives, as well as the airport workers committee, a known Likud stronghold.

This is of utmost political significance with still-obscure implications on the future.

10 months ago

Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian analyst based in the city of Haifa in Israel, told Middle East Eye that Netanyahu's promise to far-right minister Itamar Ben-Gvir of the creation of a "National Guard" - which came after Ben-Gvir agreed to delay passing of judicial reforms - was a bigger win for the far-right than the reforms themselves.

"This promise, if implemented, is more important to Ben-Gvir than the legislative issue and the judicial coup," he explained.

"He wanted a judicial coup in order to remove all procedural and legal obstacles to the implementation of his project based on ethnic cleansing, the demolition of homes in the Negev and the demolition of entire villages, in addition to the suppression of Arabs in coastal cities by the National Guard and the local militias set up by his party."

He said the National Guard, which Ben-Gvir claims is needed to increase security around Israel and would be loyal to his National Security Ministry, would have as its "core ideology" hostility to Palestinian citizens of Israel.

"The question is if things stop at this point, because the issue of the Israeli crisis is still a rolling crisis...it may remain for many years, and then the National Guard will be an additional tool in the hands of the minister, while the police are in a state of disharmony with him because it is subject to the law before the minister," he explained.

"Practically it is the organisational structure and apparatus conducive to racist fascist policies."

10 months ago

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has agreed to delay the implementation of Israel's judicial reforms in return for allowing the creation of a "national guard" loyal to his ministry.

A statement by his Jewish Power party said the minister had agreed to push back the legislation until the next Knesset session - which starts in early May - and that it would be passed after negotiations.

The party said that in return Netanyahu had promised to allow Ben Gvir to create a "national guard" under the command of his ministry, which he claims is needed to enhance public safety.

Earlier, Ben Gvir had threatened to quit the government if the reforms were paused.

10 months ago

Supporters of the government's judicial reforms have begun gathering in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park for a protest that was set to start at 6pm.

Footage released by the Times of Israel shows pro-government activists shouting abuse at protesters opposed to the judicial reforms.

“You’re whores, what kind of equality of rights are you talking about, leftist whores! We’ll fuck you up!”

https://twitter.com/cjkeller8/status/1640361674682122242?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E164036167468212224
10 months ago

Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has joined calls for a counter-demonstration in Jerusalem at 6pm in support of the judicial reforms.

“Come to Jerusalem,” he said in a statement, according to Times of Israel.

“We must not stop the reform aimed at fixing the justice system and Israeli democracy. We must not surrender to violence, anarchy, military service refusals and wild strikes.

“We are the majority, let’s make our voice heard. We won’t let our vote and the state be stolen from us.”

Israel's Finance Minister and leader of the Religious Zionist Party Bezalel Smotrich attends a meeting at the parliament, Knesset, in Jerusalem on March 20, 2023 (AFP)
Israel's Finance Minister and leader of the Religious Zionist Party Bezalel Smotrich attends a meeting at the parliament, Knesset, in Jerusalem on March 20, 2023 (AFP)

10 months ago

From Tel Aviv, prominent Israeli journalist Lily Galili delivers her analysis ahead of right-wing counterprotests expected this evening:

Tension grows as 6pm in Israel approaches. This is the hour for that masses of supporters of the judicial reforms will confront opponents of the legislation.

It’s not the usual, natural friction: right-wing MPs are summoning their most violent supporters as frustration grows at the probability the reforms may not get through.

“Probable” only because Benjamin Netanyahu is yet to appear in public and make a decision one way or another following last night’s aggressive protests.

In the background, the Biden administration is putting pressure on Netanyahu to halt the legislation. Also behind closed doors is National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, making every effort to force Netanyahu to stay the course, holding the threat of resignation and the eventual unravelling of the government high over his head.

As people prepare for rival protests, “civil war” is a term once again being used by Israel’s anxious leaders and observers.

10 months ago

Over 80,000 anti-government protesters have gathered outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, according to police sources cited in Haaretz. 

Speakers on the stage vehemently opposed legislation reforming the judiciary, calling for it to be cancelled and for a constitution to be introduced. 

Former defence minister and opposition figure Benny Gantz said: "We don't have another country, we don't have another homeland. We don't have another path, only a Jewish and democratic country."

"We call very clearly to stop this legislation. Going into negotiations, we won't compromise on one milligram of our democracy." 

police protest jerusalem israel judiciary
Police on horses watch on as thousands of protesters gather outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on 27 March 2023 (MEE/Oren Ziv)

10 months ago

Several international airlines have cancelled flights to Israel following strikes at Ben-Gurion airport. 

Among those to cancel are Air Canada, Turkish Airlines, Finnair, Wizz Air, Etihad and Emirates, fearing that planes will not be able to take off back to the country they came from, according to Ynet.

The airport shutdown came after Israel’s largest trade union federation, Histadrut, called for strikes against the judicial overhaul. 

ben gurion airport strike
Passengers wait for their flights during a strike at departures hall in Ben Gurion International airport near Tel Aviv, on 27 March 2023 (AFP)

10 months ago

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has tweeted his support for counter-protests backing the government's planned judicial reforms.

"Today we stop being silent. Today the right wakes up. Spread further," he wrote, accompanied by a poster with details for the rally outside the Knesset on Monday evening. 

Earlier, Ben-Gvir said he would resign if the reforms are halted, but continue to support the government from the outside. 

Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has also backed the demonstrations, stating that "in no way can the judicial reform stop."

10 months ago

Israel's embassy in Washington DC is set to close on Monday, in solidarity with calls by Israel’s largest trade union federation, Histadrut, for strikes against the judicial reforms. 

"The Histadrut... instructed all government employees to go on strike, including Israel’s diplomatic missions around the world. The Embassy of Israel will be closed today until further notice and no consular services will be provided," tweeted diplomat and spokesperson Elad Strohmayer. 

Meanwhile, the al-Karameh crossing between Jordan and occupied Palestine was also closed due to Israeli strikes.