On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he will pause his very controversial judicial overhaul plans to avoid civil war in Israel as the government is facing national protests, supported even by the Israeli embassies not only in the United States but also in France and the United Kingdom.
In his speech, Netanyahu emphasized that he is conscious of the worsening “divide and tensions” among Israelis as a consequence of the legislation. While acknowledging the problematic implications of his plan for “judicial overhaul”, the prime minister also called the protest in the streets a “product of an extremist minority” that is destroying and dividing the country.
Thought as the “largest protests in the history of modern-day Israel”, it drew so much pressure it “escalated to the point of growing numbers of refusals of recruits and soldiers to serve in the Israeli Defense Force’s reserve units”, therefore endangering the security of the country.
The diplomats, along with the staff from different Israeli embassies, joined the strike as a response to Netanyahu’s proposed bill. On his Twitter post, the spokesman for the Washington embassy Elad Strohmayer posted: “The Embassy of Israel will be closed today until further notice and no consular services will be provided”.
The consul general in New York, Asaf Zamir, resigned in protest. The call for a national strike drew over 600,000 people in Tel Aviv on Saturday. On Sunday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also expressed his objection to Netanyahu’s plan of total reform to the judiciary system but Gallant was dismissed. Ben Gurion international airport, located in Tel Aviv, has been shut down also as the general strike intensified suddenly.
Meanwhile, in the US, Senators Chris Murphy and Mitt Romney also issued a bipartisan statement of support for the action taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to temporarily suspend the efforts for the judiciary reform. According to the senators:
“As bipartisan members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee who care deeply about Israel, we welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to postpone consideration of judicial reforms. Shared democratic values have long underpinned the US-Israel relationship, and we hope this delay provides an opportunity to work towards a compromise and de-escalation of the current crisis”.