Israel Grinds to a Halt
Nationwide Strike Erupts Over Controversial Judicial Reforms
Photo: Nir Hirshman (Wikimedia Commons)
In response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposed judicial reforms, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets in protest. The controversial reforms, which would grant the government power to veto Supreme Court decisions and appoint its own judges, have sparked widespread concerns over the potential demise of Israel's democracy.
The situation escalated when Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was fired for voicing opposition to the proposed judicial overhaul. In response, citizens throughout Israel staged a general strike, effectively paralyzing daily operations. Ben-Gurion International Airport grounded all departing flights, while major seaports Haifa and Ashdod announced shutdowns in solidarity with the strike. Public hospitals and clinics also joined the strike, limiting their services to lifesaving treatments only.
McDonald's announced the closure of its restaurants across the country, while Israel's leading universities also shut their doors in protest. Asaf Zamir, Israel’s Counsel General in New York, resigned in protest of Gallant's dismissal.
Protesters, labeled as anarchists and traitors by the government, include a diverse coalition of women's rights and LGBTQ activists, Arabs, opposition party members, academics, army reservists, students, high-tech employees, retirees, and young families, both secular and religious Jews. Notably, military reservists from IDF's elite units, some who served with Netanyahu, and pilots, who enjoy widespread respect among Israelis, have also joined the protests.
In light of the massive demonstrations, Netanyahu has temporarily paused the judicial overhaul. The prime minister, currently under investigation for corruption, has dismissed the allegations as a "witch hunt." Israel, which relies on a set of "Basic Laws" and an independent judiciary instead of a written constitution, has experienced mounting international pressure over Netanyahu's proposed changes. Despite the turmoil, Netanyahu insists that Israel will remain a democracy, arguing that opponents simply misunderstand the bill.
Yoav Gallant, who began his military career in 1977 as a member of the Israeli Naval Commandos (Shayetet 13), served in various command positions, including commander of the Southern Command, and earned the rank of Major General.