Flights From Israel Grounded in General Strike; Netanyahu Squabbles With Allies


Travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport where flights were being delayed, ad the workers of the airport went on strike, in a protest against the judicial reforms, on Monday. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel’s Airports Authority said that departing flights from Ben Gurion Airport have been grounded following a strike called in protest against the government’s planned judicial overhaul.

The strike was called on Monday by the country’s largest trade union grouping and could paralyze large swaths of Israel’s economy. Tens of thousands are expected to be affected by the flight changes.

Planes will, for the moment, still be able to land at the airport. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform has sparked unprecedented opposition from across Israeli society.

Netanyahu was set to halt his bitterly contested judicial overhaul, an official from his Likud party said on Monday, a day after the sacking of his defense minister over the plan sparked mass street protests. However, in light of his emerging decision, infighting erupted between Likud and its coalition allies in the Knesset, leading to the postponing of the announcement.

Earlier Monday, President Yitzchak Herzog urged the government to call a halt to the planned legislation, which has ignited some of the biggest nationwide demonstrations in Israel’s recent history.

“For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of responsibility, I call on you to stop the legislative process immediately,” Herzog said.

As pressure grew on Netanyahu, who is expected to make a statement on Monday, reports that the overhaul would be halted were carried across Israeli media.

The warning from the head of state who is supposed to stand above politics and whose function is largely ceremonial underlined the alarm the divisions opened up by the proposals has caused. It followed a dramatic night of protests in cities across Israel, with tens of thousands pouring onto the streets following Netanyahu’s announcement that he had dismissed Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

A day earlier, Gallant had made an appeal for the government to halt its flagship overhaul of the judicial system, warning that the deep split it had opened up in Israeli society was affecting the military and threatening national security.

During furious scenes in the Knesset early on Monday, opposition members of the Knessett attacked MK Simcha Rothman, the committee chairman who has shepherded the bill, with cries of “Shame! Shame!”

Three months after it took power as one of the most right-wing governments in the country’s history, Gallant’s removal has plunged Netanyahu’s coalition into crisis, during a deepening security situation amongst multiple threats.

As trading opened on Monday, the shekel, which has seen big swings over recent weeks as the political turbulence has played out, fell 0.7% in early trading before recovering some ground as expectations grew the legislation would be halted.

The judicial reform, which would give the Knesset control over appointing judges to the Supreme Court and allow the government to override court rulings on the basis of a simple parliamentary majority, has drawn mass protests for weeks.

While the government says the overhaul is needed to rein in activist judges and set a proper balance between the elected government and the judiciary, opponents see it as an undermining of legal checks and balances and a threat to Israel’s democracy.

Netanyahu has so far vowed to continue with the project, and a central part of the reforms, a bill that would tighten political control over judicial appointments, is due to be voted on in the Knesset this week.

As well as drawing opposition from the business establishment, the project has caused alarm among Israel’s allies. The United States said it was deeply concerned by Sunday’s events and saw an urgent need for compromise, while repeating calls to safeguard democratic values.

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!