Israel's national security minister said Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to overhaul the country's judiciary has been postponed in the face of massive protests opposing it.
National security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that the government agreed to delay action until parliament's summer session.
Israeli workers launched a nationwide strike Monday and tens of thousands of people demonstrated again outside parliament, the latest protest of Netanyahu's plan to overhaul the country's judiciary to give his narrow parliamentary majority more control over the appointment of judges and the right to overturn decisions it did not like.
The latest protests erupted after Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday, a day after the defense chief expressed his opposition to Netanyahu's proposals.
Mass Protests Erupt After Netanyahu Fires Defense Chief
The work stoppages were widespread, with departing flights grounded from the country's main international airport near Tel Aviv, and large shopping malls and universities also shutting down. Israel's largest trade union called for its 800,000 members - in health, transit, banking and other occupations - to stop work. The main doctors' union also said its members would also strike and the Israeli stock exchange announced it would be closed Tuesday.
Isaac Herzog, the ceremonial Israeli president, urged Netanyahu to immediately halt the controversial judicial overhaul.
"The entire nation is rapt with deep worry," Herzog said early Monday. "Wake up now!"
Initially, it was not clear how Netanyahu, on trial for corruption charges which he denies, would respond. Israeli media, citing unnamed sources, said he could pause the judicial overhaul and some members of his Likud party said they would support him if he did delay his push for the changes.
But he made no major pronouncements early Monday. In the afternoon, he issued his first statement since he fired Gallant, writing on Twitter, 'I call on all protesters in Jerusalem, right and left, to behave responsibly and not act violently."
Galant warned in a televised statement Saturday that the divide over the issues is "seeping into the military and security agencies," representing a security threat for the country.
Uproar Over Israeli Judicial Changes: What's It All About?
Ultranationalist supporters of the judicial overhaul were planning their own demonstration Monday outside the Knesset, the country's parliament. 'They won't steal the election from us,' read a flyer for the event, organized by the Religious Zionist party.
The plan by Netanyahu, the Jewish state's longest-serving leader and now head of the country's most right-wing government ever, has plunged the country into one of its worst domestic crises. The protests have lasted for weeks and have divided its population, including its military, where reservists have increasingly said publicly, they will not serve a country veering toward autocracy.
U.S. President Joe Biden, in a recent conversation with Netanyahu, called for recognition of democratic norms in Israel, including an independent judiciary, and asked him to reconsider his plans.
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said Sunday the United States was 'deeply concerned' by the developments.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.