(Jerusalem) Israel’s largest trade union center announced Monday “an immediate general strike”, demanding the end of the justice reform project which is deeply dividing the country, on the verge of a new political crisis.
At midday, the country is hanging on to an announcement by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, given as imminent by the Israeli media since the morning on this project, which now weakens the majority.
Prior to this, Arnon Bar David, leader of the Histadrut, had called for a general strike. “As soon as this press conference is over, the State of Israel stops […] We have a mission to stop the process of legislation and we will do it,” he said.
The Israel Medical Association has also declared a general strike that could affect public hospitals and medical services.
If the effects of the strike are not necessarily immediately visible in the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, where many businesses remain open, Ben-Gurion International Airport has announced the cessation of departing flights while tens of thousands people were to leave the country on Monday.
At 1 p.m. (6 a.m. Eastern time), thousands of reform opponents demonstrated outside the parliament building in Jerusalem, according to AFP reporters on the spot. A counter-demonstration is planned for the evening. Demonstrations against the reform are also taking place in Haifa and Tel Aviv.
“ We call on the government to stop this crazy reform, we want equality, a Constitution and a Declaration of Human Rights ”, declared to AFP Keren Mimran, 57, who came to protest against the reform in front of Parliament. .
Earlier in the morning, President Isaac Herzog called on the government to “immediately halt” legislative work on the judicial reform bill, after a night marked by clashes between protesters and police in Tel Aviv.
Mr. Herzog plays an essentially ceremonial role and his repeated calls to find a compromise solution on the reform have so far been without effect and have not prevented the country from slipping gradually into crisis. He had recently worried about a risk of “civil war”.
But according to Israeli media, Mr. Netanyahu may announce a pause in reform, in accordance with this call.
Thousands of people took to the streets in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening after Mr Netanyahu sacked his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, who had publicly pleaded the day before for a pause in reform, expressing fears for Israel’s security.
The reform bill proposed by the government of Mr. Netanyahu, one of the most right-wing in the history of Israel, aims to increase the power of elected officials over that of judges.
Contested in the street for nearly three months, he is at the origin of one of the largest popular mobilization movements in the history of Israel.
Critics of the reform believe it risks jeopardizing the democratic character of the State of Israel. But, a sign that the legislative process has not yet been halted, the Parliamentary Law Commission voted Monday morning in favor of one of the central elements of the reform, at the heart of the concerns of its detractors: the bill modifying the judicial appointment process.
Strong allies of Israel, the United States declared themselves “ deeply concerned ”, and underlined “ the urgent need for a compromise ”.
In France, the country where the most Jews live after Israel and the United States, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (Crif) called on the Israeli government “ to suspend the reform ” in order to “ restore calm and dialogue with the whole of society”.
“I call on the Prime Minister to reverse the dismissal of Yoav Gallant. The State of Israel cannot at this time, in the face of threats on all fronts, allow itself a change of Minister of Defense”, declared for his part the leader of the Israeli opposition Yaïr Lapid on Monday, in a press conference, joined in this sense by Yuli Edelstein, a tenor of Likud, the party of Mr. Netanyahu.
“ Given the security situation, it is obvious that this is not the time to change the Minister of Defense”, said Mr. Edelstein, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense.
As Israeli media report a threat from Homeland Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to quit the government — which could see Netanyahu lose his majority — if the reform is suspended, the economy minister , Nir Barkat, another tenor of Likud, called on his colleagues on Twitter “ to support the Prime Minister to take a break in the legislation ”.