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Israel turmoil: Thousands protest as Netanyahu delays judicial overhaul

Thousands of supporters of judicial overhaul plans demonstrated outside the Supreme Court in West Jerusalem. 

Around 10,000 demonstrators chanted slogans demanding the ruling coalition to advance the judicial reform bill in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), The Jerusalem Post reported.

The mass protest was joined by far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Earlier Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a delay to the controversial judicial reform plans.

In a speech, Netanyahu said there is an “extremist minority” that is trying to divide Israel.

“If there is a way to avoid civil war through dialog, I will take time out for dialog,” Netanyahu said.

The Israeli prime minister added that he had postponed the final reading of the judiciary overhaul bill “out of national responsibility.”

READ MORE: Herzog urges Netanyahu to stop judicial reforms as mass protests hit Israel

Looming threat of resigns

For his part, Ben-Gvir, the head of the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party, threatened to resign from the government if the judicial change was halted.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin also threatened to resign, but he called for postponing the vote on the controversial plan in order to give room for dialogue with the opposition.

Tension escalated across Israel on Sunday after Netanyahu sacked Defence Minister Yoav Gallant over his call for halting the judicial reform plan.

According to Israeli public broadcaster KAN, Gallant said he will remain in his position if Netanyahu revokes his dismissal decision.

Embassies join strike 

Israeli embassies worldwide have been instructed to join a strike on Monday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan, a workers’ union letter seen by Reuters said.

The letter, citing a nationwide strike in Israel declared by the Histadrut labour federation, said Foreign Ministry activities in the country and abroad would be limited to emergency services.

“I am calling a general strike,” Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David said in a televised address. “We have a mission to stop this legislative process and we will do it,” he added, vowing to “continue to fight”.

‘Greater Danger’

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted late on Sunday that the country is “in greater danger than ever since the Yom Kippur War,” a conflict that saw Israel fight against both Egypt and Syria.

He urged the government to engage in dialogue and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to revoke his sacking of Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.

Volker Turk, the United Nations human rights chief, urges Israel to pause the reforms, saying he is concerned that “if passed, these changes risk weakening human rights protections for all.”

In addition to the military, the planned judicial overhaul has drawn huge public protests for months, with demonstrators calling the plan a power grab by the government.

On trial for corruption, Netanyahu claims that his plan would enhance democracy and restore the balance between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.

READ MORE: Thousands hit Israel’s streets after Netanyahu fires defence chief

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