Israel's PM announces delay of judicial reform process
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a postponement of plans to overhaul the judiciary, which had triggered protests and strikes by those who opposed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced that the plan to overhaul the judiciary would be delayed, saying he wanted to seek compromise with opponents of the controversial reforms.
"When there's an opportunity to avoid civil war through dialogue, I, as prime minister, am taking a timeout for dialogue," Netanyahu said.
Earlier Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said he had agreed with Netanyahu to the delay until the Knesset — the Israeli parliament — reconvened for its summer session on April 30.
The announcement comes as tens of thousands of Israelis protested against the reforms outside parliament and amid a nationwide strike that began on Monday.
Israel's airport authority said flights from Ben Gurion International Airport had been grounded, while Israel's umbrella organization of trade unions, Histadrut, called for 700,000 workers in health, transit and banking, among other fields, to down tools.
On Sunday, Netanyahu announced that he was dismissing Yoav Gallant as the country's defense minister. Gallant, who is a member of Netanyahu's Likud party, had called on the government to stop its plans to overhaul the judiciary the day before.
Why are the reforms contentious?
The government announced the planned changes in January, arguing that they were needed to restore balance between the executive and judicial branches.
Netanyahu's government also argued that judges had become too interventionist.
The judicial overhaul would give the government sway in choosing judges and limit the Supreme Court's power to strike down laws.
Opponents of the legal changes say the ruling coalition —the most right-wing in Israel's history — is seeking to erode the separation of powers in Israel, putting the country on an authoritarian path.
Some indications of the Likud party being willing to rethink began to emerge late on Sunday as the protests intensified.
Culture Minister Micky Zohar, a close Netanyahu ally, said the party would back the prime minister if he moved to postpone the reforms.
Likud is the largest party within the broad ruling coalition, but only accounts for about half of its seats in the Knesset.
kb/jcg (AP, Reuters)