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Netanyahu Dismisses Minister Amid Reformist Uproar in Israel


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Israel faced mass protests overnight as opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to reform the judiciary faced growing opposition on Monday.

The growing resistance to the plan came hours after tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the country in a spontaneous show of anger at Netanyahu’s decision to fire his defense minister after he called for a halt to reform. They set fires on Tel Aviv’s main highway, blocking the lane and many others across the country for hours.

Anger reached a boiling point Monday morning as universities across the country closed their doors in protest while trade unions were expected to call a general strike.

The development forced Head of State Isaac Herzog to urge an immediate halt to the legal changes.

Reform, led by Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, and his allies in Israel’s most right-wing government ever, plunged Israel into one of its worst internal crises.

He sparked a sustained and intense protest movement that extended to almost all sectors of society, including the military, as reservists came out increasingly publicly to say they would not serve a country spiraling toward authoritarianism.

The crisis has further divided Israel, amplifying the long-running and intractable differences that have torn the country apart since its inception.

The protesters say they are fighting for the very soul of the nation, and see reform as a direct challenge to Israel’s democratic ideals. The government called them anarchists to overthrow the government.

The crisis has also put a spotlight on Netanyahu himself, Israel’s longest-serving leader, and the lengths he may be willing to go to maintain his grip on power, even as he battles corruption charges.

The dismissal of his defense minister at a time of increasing security threats in the West Bank and elsewhere seems to have been the last straw for many, sparking a new wave of opposition.

On Monday, as the embers of fire on the highway cleared, Israeli President Herzog urged Netanyahu to halt the repair immediately, calling on the government to put aside political considerations for the sake of the nation.

“The entire nation is throbbing with deep concern. Our security, our economy, our society – they are all at risk,” he said. “Wake up now!”

Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former ally-turned-rival of Netanyahu, said on Monday that Israel is “in a state of a crushing loss of control.”

“We haven’t been through such a dangerous situation in 50 years,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

Universities across the country said they were closing “until further notice”. An umbrella union group was expected to announce that it was joining the protesters, and was reportedly set to announce a general strike. Israeli media reported that the lawyer representing Netanyahu in a corruption trial had threatened to resign if reform was not halted.

Netanyahu reportedly spent the night in consultations and is scheduled to speak later on Monday. Israeli media said he would block the legislation, which could not be independently confirmed.

His dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant seems to indicate that the prime minister and his allies will present their reform plan this week and that the committee moving the legislation forward will meet as planned on Monday.

Gallant was the first senior member of the ruling Likud party to speak out against it, saying the deep divisions threatened to weaken the army. on monday,

Netanyahu’s government has vowed to move ahead with a parliamentary vote this week on the reform axis – a law that would give the ruling coalition the final say in all judicial appointments.

It also seeks to pass laws that would give Parliament the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions and limit judicial review of laws.

Netanyahu and his allies say the plan will rebalance the judicial and executive branches and rein in what they see as a court intervening with liberal sympathies.

But critics say the laws would remove Israel’s system of checks and balances and concentrate power in the hands of the ruling coalition. They also say Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, has a conflict of interest.

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