Tel Aviv [Israel], March 28 (ANI): Israel's political crisis escalated on Monday as the country's largest trade union announced a "historic" strike shutting down transportation, universities, restaurants and retailers in protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned judicial overhaul, CNN reported.
"The Histadrut, Israel's largest labour union, instructed all government employees to go on strike, including Israel's diplomatic missions around the world. The embassy of Israel will be closed today until further notice and no consular services will be provided," Israel's embassy in India said in a statement.
The strikes were announced following Netanyahu's decision on Sunday to fire his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant who became the first member of the cabinet to call for a pause in the reforms.
An Israeli diplomat has confirmed that the Embassy of Israel worldwide will remain closed until further notice and that no consular services will be provided.
The letter, citing a Histadrut labour federation-called statewide strike in Israel, stated that only emergency services will be provided by the Foreign Ministry both domestically and overseas.
Notably, the Knesset (Parliament of Israel) recently proposed a series of judicial reforms. Israelis believe that the new changes will curb the power of the country's judicial system to question lawmakers. The reforms empower the Knesset to make judicial appointments at will. Citizens believe that the new changes are limiting the power of the Israeli Judicial System. Thousands are protesting against the reforms in the country.
Under the current system, the Supreme Court (SC) of Israel has the power to strike down legislation if they are in violation of the basic laws of the country.
Israel President Issac Herzog on Monday morning called on members of the governing coalition to immediately halt its planned overhaul of the country's judiciary after the country witnessed a night of major protests, reported Jerusalem Post.
"For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of responsibility, I am calling on you to stop legislation immediately. I turn to all the party leaders in the Knesset, coalition and opposition as one, put the citizens of the nation above all else and behave responsibly and bravely without further delay," Herzog said.
Major protests continued in the city of Tel Aviv throughout Sunday night after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defence Minister Yoav Gallant who in a speech on Saturday night expressed his opposition to the legislation.
All takeoffs from Israel's main airport, Ben Gurion Tel Aviv, were halted for several hours because of the strike. Workers at the country's largest port in Haifa stopped working, some universities were shuttered and some of the country's best-known retailers, including McDonald's and the shopping mall chain Azrieli Group, announced closures, CNN reported.
Massive spontaneous protests took over the Israeli city of Tel Aviv late Sunday night in response to the Gallant news, with people waving Israeli flags and chanting "democracy." Protesters lit several fires on the main highway in the city and blocked number of streets and bridges, including the Ayalon Highway, it added.
Netanyahu met with coalition party leaders on Monday morning in order to decide whether or not to push forwards with the controversial bill to remake the Judicial Appointments Committee, which was passed in the Knesset Constitution Committee this morning and is now ready to be brought to the Knesset plenum for its second and third reading, reported Jerusalem Post.
National Security Minister and Otmza Yehudit leader MK Itamar Ben-Gvir threatened today to quit the government if the judicial reform legislation freezes, according to reports by KAN and Channel 12 News.
Ben-Gvir was heard shouting from within the meeting that the government should not back down. If Ben-Gvir leaves the government and quits the coalition, the coalition will no longer have a majority and the government will likely fall.
Meanwhile, widespread strikes were announced in Israel to protest judicial reform. The country's Ben-Gurion Airport has banned flights leaving the airport until further notice and the Workers' Union too have announced a strike, reported Jerusalem Post.
The announcement of grounded flights was made by Israel's Airport Authority Committee Chairman Pinhas Idan. As for incoming flights, only flights already in the sky will be allowed to land.
Passengers continued the check-in process after the announcement without knowing if their flights would actually depart. The flight board in the airport showed flights later on the day still intending on leaving but they won't necessarily leave, reported Jerusalem Post.
A member of the Workers' Union said that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stops the judicial reform legislation, flights will return to functioning properly.
The strikes are also being held in universities, hospitals and other sectors.Netanyahu is believed to still be holed up in his office, having reportedly spent the past several hours in various "security and legal" consultations with key ministers and advisers, notably including Justice Minister Yariv Levin.
He can probably hear the calls for him to resign, perhaps even the youngsters' singing derisively that he's "messing with the wrong generation," The Times of Israel reported.
Netanyahu's government was sworn in at the end of December. By January 4, the great judicial reform was announced by Justice Minister Yariv Levin. The opposition, everyone understood, would rail and rage; old elites watching their displacement would not go quietly into the night. But in the end, the frustration of three decades of judicial overreach now hardened into a grim determination, would see the coalition through, reported The Times of Israel. (ANI)