Israel Turmoil Forces Netanyahu to Mull Judicial U-Turn

Israel was in turmoil on Monday, with a general strike halting flight departures and limiting access to the health and legal systems as pressure intensified on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze his plan to shift power from the Supreme Court to the legislature.
Overnight, the streets were aflame, with burning tires making highways impassible after Netanyahu fired his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, for an unauthorized televised speech calling for a delay in the name of national security.
Israel Protests Escalate on Judicial ReformsDemonstrators wave Israeli national flags. Photographer: Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg
Netanyahu formed the most right-wing religious government in Israel’s history in late December. One of its goals has been to rein in the Supreme Court, which has stymied some right-wing endeavors. That includes settlement building in the occupied West Bank, imprisoning African refugees and excusing the ultra-Orthodox from military service.
But the country’s establishment in tech, finance and the military — which has led an economic boom — tends to be liberal and secular and is afraid that if the court is weakened, this government will make the country more theocratic. That would be a less appealing place to invest, invent, work and live.
As a result, those groups have taken to the street and airwaves to stop the judicial plan. Inside the military, there have been threats to refuse to show up for training. That, in addition to a sense of growing risks from Iran and Palestinian groups, led Defense Minister Gallant to call for the halt for the sake of national security.
When Netanyahu sacked him on Sunday night, protesters took to the streets again, enraged that a man seen as moderate and a patriot, was summarily dismissed. A strike has been called and protests and counter-protests have essentially shut the country down.
Netanyahu is expected to yield to the pressure and delay consideration of the judicial plan at least until May. That news has buoyed markets and the shekel since investors want to see the turmoil end. But it has also led some on the right end of the government to threaten to break up the coalition if he proceeds.

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