Jerusalem : Israel’s political crisis escalated into uncharted territory Monday as the country’s largest trade union announced a “historic” strike shutting down transportation, universities, restaurants and retailers in protest against Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned judicial overhaul.
Israel’s Histadrut trade union which coordinated the strike said that some government ministries, the country’s three biggest cities, banks, ports and many other companies and agencies were on strike on Monday and added that essential services such as hospitals and firefighters were to operate on a Saturday schedule.
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.
Several Israeli embassies including the ones in Washington DC, London and Paris, were closed on Monday after their workers and some diplomats joined the strike.
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.
Gallant reiterated that sentiment in a tweet on Sunday after his dismissal: “The security of the State of Israel has always been and will always remain the mission of my life.”
Under the proposals, the government would have control over the appointment of judges, and parliament would gain the power to override Supreme Court decisions.
The government argues the changes are essential to rein in the Supreme Court, which they see as insular, elitist, and no longer representative of the Israeli people. Opponents say the plans threaten the foundations of Israeli democracy. — AA