(Jerusalem) Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s justice reform bill has been suspended until the summer session of parliament, which begins on April 30, Homeland Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir announced on Monday. .
A huge crowd – estimated at 80,000 demonstrators according to Israeli media – gathered around the Parliament building in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon to protest against the reform. A counter-demonstration, the first of its kind, is announced at the same place from 6 p.m. (11 a.m. Eastern time), raising fears of violence between supporters of the two camps.
“I call on all protesters in Jerusalem, right and left, to behave responsibly and not to act violently. We are all brothers,” Netanyahu tweeted.
Since the morning, Israelis have been hanging on to an announcement by the Prime Minister on a potential pause in the legislative process aimed at passing a justice reform that is dividing society and now weakening the majority in power.
According to Israeli media, Mr. Netanyahu and his minister Itamar Ben Gvir (extreme right) were engaged in intense discussions after the latter threatened to leave the government if the reform was suspended.
Faced with the scale of the mobilization in front of Parliament, Trevor Falor, 52, an entrepreneur in the tourism sector, is enthusiastic: “It is total madness [to see] all these authorities [and these people from] all the courts, the military, the financial sector, and all sectors in Israel saying that this reform […] is completely crazy”.
“We call on the government to stop this crazy reform,” said Keren Mimran, 57, a high-tech entrepreneur, who says she is in favor of a strike of “all sectors of the economy”.
And to add: “We want equality, we want a Constitution, we want a declaration of human rights”.
Arnon Bar David, leader of the Histadrut, the country’s largest trade union federation, called Monday morning for a general strike, widely followed in the public sector, including hospitals and medical services.
The main employers’ organizations distanced themselves from the strike call, while calling for dialogue and “the immediate cessation of the legislative process” on judicial reform.
But, very rarely, private companies – banks, insurance companies, clothing and restaurant chains – decided to participate in the strike.
The strike forced Ben-Gurion International Airport to announce the suspension of outgoing flights as tens of thousands of people were expected to leave the country on Monday.
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”.
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.
Critics of the reform believe it risks undermining the democratic principles in use in Israel.
Strong allies of Israel, the United States expressed “deep concern”, and stressed “the urgent need for compromise”.
In France, the country where the largest Jewish community lives 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 as quickly as possible. and dialogue with all of society”.
“The Israeli government has suffered a hostile takeover by a messianic, nationalist and anti-democratic group. They won’t stop on their own… What will stop them is you. Your determination,” Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid told protesters.