Mass Protests Erupt on the Streets of Tel Aviv as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Fires Defense Minister

Huge crowds filled the streets of Tel Aviv Sunday night after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu axed his defense minister over his opposition to a planned judicial overhaul. CNN reports:

Waving Israeli flags and chanting “democratia,” protestors could be seen blocking streets and bridges, including the Ayalon Highway. Protesters lit several fires on the main highway in Tel Aviv, their acrid, black smoke billowing into the sky, partly obscuring some of the city’s iconic skyscrapers. By around 2 a.m. local time in Tel Aviv, protests had thinned out but live pictures from the scene showed security forces firing water cannons on those still gathered.

Today News Africa reporter Simon Ateba posted video of some of the unrest on Twitter:

The unrest comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to push through judicial reform, a process which has triggered sharp opposition among his detractors—some of whom are accusing the PM of trying to game the justice system to benefit himself. Netanyahu has faced a string of corruption accusations in recent years.

Here are the reforms Netanyahu is trying to get through:

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.

Defense Minister Gallant waited for the PM to be overseas before making his move:

Gallant argued for a halt to the judicial reforms in a speech Saturday night, when Netanyahu was out of the country on an official visit to the United Kingdom. Some military reservists have pledged to pull out of their service in opposition to the plans, which critics say would undermine the independence of the judiciary. Gallant said pressing ahead with the proposals could threaten Israel’s security.

Once Gallant became the first cabinet minister to openly oppose the reforms, others soon followed suit, including Israel’s President Isaac Herzog who took to Facebook Monday to write:

We saw some very difficult plays tonight. I turn to the Prime Minister, members of the government and members of the coalition: the feelings are hard and painful. Deep concern covers the whole nation. Security, economy, society – everyone is threatened. The eyes of all the people of Israel are married to you. The eyes of all the Jewish people are married to you. The eyes of the whole world are married to you. For the sake of solidarity with Israel, for the sake of committed responsibility I call on you to halt the legislative procedure immediately. [Emphasis mine.]

The action wasn’t confined to Tel Aviv:

Israeli politicians weighed in with heated rhetoric on both sides of the issue, and the largest labor union plans to strike beginning Monday.  Meanwhile, many departing flights out of the country were grounded by protesting workers, and other sectors threatened to also go on strike.

This situation looks to get more chaotic before all is said and done; RedState will keep you posted with any updates.

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