BREAKING: Israel's biggest union federation calls "historic" strike to stop "judicial revolution"
From CNN’s Michael Schwartz in Jerusalem
Israel’s largest union federation on Monday called a “historic” general strike, to “stop this judicial revolution, this craziness,” Histadrut leader Arnon Bar-David announced in a televised speech.
“Stop this judicial process before it is too late,” Bar-David said, addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly.
More to come ...
5:54 a.m. ET, March 27, 2023
What Israel's judicial overhaul plans could mean for the Palestinians
From CNN's Hadas Gold in Jerusalem
At its core, Israel's planned judicial overhaul would give the country's parliament, the Knesset, and therefore the parties in power, more control over the judiciary.
From how judges are selected, to what laws the Supreme Court can rule on, to even giving parliament power to overturn Supreme Court decisions, the changes would be the most significant shakeups to Israel’s judiciary since its founding in 1948.
What it means for Palestinians: Weakening the judicial branch could limit both Israelis and Palestinians in seeking the court’s defense of their rights if they believe they are compromised by the government.
Palestinians in the occupied West Bank could be affected, and of course, Palestinian citizens of Israel or those who hold residency cards would be directly affected. Israel’s Supreme Court has no influence on what happens in Gaza, which is ruled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Critics of the changes worry that if the politicians have more control, the rights of minorities in Israel, especially Palestinians living in Israel, would be impacted.
Last year, for example, the court halted the evictions of Palestinian families in the flashpoint neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, where Jewish groups have claimed ownership of land the families have lived on for decades.
At the same time, Palestinian activists have argued that the high court has further entrenched Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, having never considered the legality of Israeli settlements there, even though they’re considered illegal by most of the international community.
The high court has also been the subject of complaints from Israel’s far right and settlers, who say it isbiased against settlers; they have condemned the court’s involvement in approving the eviction of settlers from Gaza and the Northern West Bank in 2005.
5:58 a.m. ET, March 27, 2023
Why American Jews are distancing themselves from Netanyahu's government
From CNN's Abbas Al Lawati in Abu Dhabi, UAE
This month, 145 American Jewish leaders publicly distanced themselves from a member of the Israeli government, saying Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich was not welcome in the United States.
It was a rare public rebuke of a sitting Israeli minister that brought together individuals from across the Jewish-American political spectrum. Smotrich “has long expressed views that are abhorrent to the vast majority of American Jews, from anti-Arab racism, to virulent homophobia, to a full-throated embrace of Jewish supremacy,” they said in a statement.
The comments came after the minister called for a Palestinian town in the occupied West Bank to be “erased” after two Israeli brothers were shot and killed there, prompting a rampage through the area by Israeli Jewish settlers.
The episode is a symptom of the widening gap of values between many American Jews and Israel as the Jewish state shifts to the right. In December, Israel swore in the most right-wing government in its history, bringing in extremists known for controversial views. The cabinet has also pushed forward a plan to weaken the judiciary that has brought hundreds of thousands of Israeli protesters to the streets as well as criticism from Israel’s closest allies.
The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has become the target of near-regular criticism by the Biden administration. In its latest move, the US State Department last week summoned Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog after Israel’s parliament passed legislation that allows Jewish settlements to be rebuilt in parts of the occupied West Bank. It was the first summoning of an Israeli ambassador in the US in over a decade.
“The reality… is that the interests of American Jews and Israel have been diverging for many years, but it’s been papered over,” Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times this month. He called on the community to shun Netanyahu, citing the prime minister’s deployment of the “Trumpist playbook” by courting ultranationalist and ultrareligious parties.
Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was fired after he called for a pause in the government's drive to overhaul the country’s judicial system in a speech Saturday night.
Gallant is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
His speech made him the first government minister to take a public stance in favor of a delay in the reforms.
“For the security of Israel, for the sake of our sons and daughters: We need to stop the legislative process at this time,” Gallant said in a video statement.
“We need to stop the demonstrations and protests — and reach out for dialogue. Any manifestation of refusal that eats away at the strength of the IDF and harms the security system should be stopped immediately,” Gallant said, a reference to the refusal of some Israel Defense Forces reservists to train in protest at the government plans.
Gallant called for a pause “to allow the people of Israel to celebrate Passover and Independence Day together, and mourn together on Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day. These are holy days for us.”
Israeli Independence Day falls on April 26 this year.
2:40 a.m. ET, March 27, 2023
Israeli President Isaac Herzog calls on government to halt judicial overhaul
From CNN's Irene Nasser
Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Monday urged the government to immediately halt its planned judicial overhaul, saying: "the eyes of the whole world are on you."
"I turn to the Prime Minister, members of the government and members of the coalition: the feelings are hard and painful. Deep concern hovers over the entire nation. Security, economy, society — everyone is threatened. The eyes of all the people of Israel are on you. The eyes of all the Jewish people are on you. The eyes of the whole world are on you," Herzog said in a post on his official Facebook page.
"For the sake of the unity of Israelis, for the sake of committed responsibility I call on you to halt the legislative procedure immediately."
Herzog called on the "leaders of all the Knesset factions, coalition and opposition alike, to put the citizens of the country above all, and to act responsibly and with courage without further delay."
"Come to your senses now! This is not a political moment, this is a moment for leadership and responsibility," he said.
Some context: Although the Israeli presidency is largely a ceremonial role, Herzog has been actively speaking with all parties calling for negotiations. Herzog has previously said the government’s proposed legislation was “misguided, brutal and undermines our democratic foundations,” and warned Israel was potentially on the brink of a “civil war.”
2:43 a.m. ET, March 27, 2023
Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett calls on Netanyahu to suspend judicial reform
From CNN's Irene Nasser
Israel's former prime minister Naftali Bennett has urged the country's leader Benjamin Netanyahu to suspend the government's plan for judicial reform and to enter into a dialogue.
Bennett also said fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant should be reinstated.
"I call on the Prime Minister to withdraw Gallant's letter of dismissal, suspend the [judicial] reform, and enter into a lull of negotiation until after Independence Day," Bennett said on Twitter. "It doesn't matter who is right and who is wrong. I call on all the demonstrators and all Israeli citizens — do everything without violence, without bloodshed. We are brothers."
Mass protests erupted in Israel Sunday after Netanyahu fired Gallant following his speech calling for a delay to the government's controversial plans to overhaul the judicial system.
Gallant said the pause was needed “to allow the people of Israel to celebrate Passover and Independence Day together, and mourn together on Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day. These are holy days for us.”
Israeli Independence Day falls on April 26 this year.
2:52 a.m. ET, March 27, 2023
Netanyahu says he is "not trying to destroy democracy" in TV interview to air Monday
From CNN's Pauline Lockwood
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “I’m not trying to destroy democracy, I’m trying to save it,” in an exclusive interview with British broadcaster Piers Morgan.
Morgan posted the quote from the interview on his Twitter account on Sunday evening.
The interview will air at 8 p.m. ET Monday on TalkTV and Fox Nation, according to Morgan’s tweet.
1:02 a.m. ET, March 27, 2023
It's 7 a.m. in Tel Aviv after a night of protests. Here's what you need to know about Israel's political crisis
From CNN staff
Massive crowds filled the streets of the Israeli city of Tel Aviv late Sunday night after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister over his opposition to a planned judicial overhaul.
Israel has seen months-long protests over the planned judicial overhaul, which opponents say threaten the foundations of Israeli democracy.
Here's what you need to know about Israel's deepening political crisis:
Mass protests: Waving Israeli flags and chanting "democratia," protesters blocked streets and bridges, including the main Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv on Sunday. By the early hours protests had thinned out but live pictures from the scene showed security forces firing water cannons on protesters still gathered. Spontaneous protests also broke out in Jerusalem and other cities.
Other ministers speak out: Following Gallant's comments, three other Israeli government ministers — all members of Netanyahu’s Likud party — suggested that the prime minister should stop the judicial overhaul legislation. They include Diaspora Affairs and Social Equality Minister Amichai Chikli, Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar and Economy Minister Nir Barkat, who warned the overhaul plan has brought the country to the brink of civil war. Meanwhile, Israel’s Consul General in New York, Asaf Zamir, resigned in response to Netanyahu’s decision to fire Gallant.
Universities to strike Monday: Universities in Israel will go on strike starting Monday, they announced, and the country’s largest labor union and business leaders said they would hold a news conference on Monday morning. The labor union, Histadrut, said its press conference with business leaders scheduled for 11 a.m. (4 a.m. ET) would be dramatic.
Controversial judicial overhaul: For months, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been taking to the streets across the country to protest far-reaching changes to Israel’s legal system. 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.
11:00 p.m. ET, March 26, 2023
Israel's universities to strike on Monday, largest union announces news conference
From CNN’s Amir Tal and Richard Allen Greene in Jerusalem
Universities in Israel will go on strike starting Monday, they announced, and the country’s largest labor union and business leaders said they would hold a news conference on Monday morning.
The moves came hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister in a dispute over the government’s controversial plans to overhaul the court system.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had called Saturday night for a pause in the legislative process. Netanyahu sacked him 24 hours later, prompting spontaneous demonstrations in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities.
The labor union, Histadrut, said its press conference with business leaders would be dramatic. It is scheduled for 11 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET).