General strike, protests hit Israel over judicial reforms


Israel’s largest labour organisation Histadrut started a general workers’ strike Monday to press the government to halt its contentious judicial overhaul plan.

Histadrut’s chairman Arnon Bar-David issued a statement saying workers and employers would together halt the judicial overhaul, Israeli media reported.

Following his call, departing flights from Ben Gurion International Airport have been grounded.

Factories, banks, shopping malls and local authorities participating in the strike also shut down services.

Fast food chain restaurant McDonald’s also joined the strike and closed its restaurants throughout Israel.

Public transportation, schools, and kindergartens were not affected.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Medical Association announced a strike at all public hospitals and community clinics for the same reason, sparing only urgent life-saving treatments.

All Israeli public universities also went on strike on the same grounds.

Israel’s Association of University Heads in a statement called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ruling coalition to immediately stop the legislation procedure and begin discussions to reach an agreed and broad outline.

The current Israeli government has put forward changes to the Israeli judicial system aimed at curbing the overly activist Supreme Court since the beginning of this year, sparking continued massive protests nationwide.

Some three months since taking office, Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition has been plunged into crisis over the bitter divisions exposed by its flagship judicial overhaul plans.

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“State security cannot be a card in the political game. Netanyahu crossed a red line tonight,” opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz said in a joint statement.

They called on members of Netanyahu’s Likud party not to have a hand in “the crushing of national security”.

Daniel B. Shapiro, who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel under the Obama administration, told CNN on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of his government’s controversial judicial overhaul represents “a kind of historic political mismanagement,” that could be “detrimental to the close bond between the U.S. and Israel,”

“If the Israeli government were to go down a path where a large number of its own citizens and many fellow democracies in other countries really question whether Israel was still adhering to those democratic principles of rule of law, separation of powers [and] checks and balances, it would obviously be detrimental to the close bond between the U.S. and Israel,” Shapiro said.