Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Firing Defense Minister Sparks Mass Protests in Tel Aviv

After Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, fired his defense minister because he opposed a planned judicial reform, huge crowds flooded Tel Aviv’s streets Sunday night. CNN reports:

Protestors were seen blocking roads and bridges including the Ayalon Highway, waving Israeli flags, and shouting “democratia”.

Protesters set fire to several fires along Tel Aviv’s main highway, causing black smoke to billow into the sky. This partially obscured some of Tel Aviv’s most iconic skyscrapers. Protests in Tel Aviv had slowed down to around 2 a.m. local, but live photos from the scene showed security forces using water cannons against those still present.

Simon Ateba, Today News Africa’s reporter, posted a video on Twitter of unrest:

This unrest is occurring as Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, is trying to pass judicial reform. Some of his detractors accuse him of trying to manipulate the justice system for his own benefit. In recent years, Netanyahu has been accused of a series of corruption offenses.

These are the reforms Netanyahu wants to achieve:

The proposals would give the government control over the selection of judges and the parliament the power to override Supreme Court rulings.

The government claims the changes are necessary to control the Supreme Court. They view it as insular and elitist and not representative of the Israeli people. Opponents claim the plans could threaten the foundations of Israeli democracy.

Before making his move, Defense Minister Gallant waited until the PM was overseas.

Gallant called for an end to the judiciary reforms in a speech Saturday evening, while Netanyahu was visiting the UK. In opposition to the plans, some military reservists pledged to withdraw from their service. Critics claim that this would compromise the independence of the judiciary. Gallant stated that Israel’s security could be at risk if the proposals are not halted.

Gallant was the first cabinet minister openly to oppose the reforms. Others soon followed his lead, including President Isaac Herzog of Israel, who took to Facebook Monday to post:

Tonight, we saw some difficult plays.

I turn to the Prime Minister, the members of the government, and the members of the coalition. The feelings are deep and difficult. The nation is deeply concerned. Everyone is at risk: security, the economy, and society. All the eyes of Israel are looking at you. All the eyes of the Jewish people have married you. You are the eyes of all people.

I ask you to immediately halt the legislative process for solidarity with Israel. [Emphasis mine.]

Tel Aviv was not the only place where the action took place.

Israeli politicians vented their anger on both sides of this issue. The largest labor union in Israel plans to strike starting Monday. Protesting workers grounded many flights leaving the country, while other sectors threatened to strike.

The situation appears to be getting more chaotic than before.