Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that a controversial plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary will be delayed after months of protests, growing labour strikes and opposition from within his own government.
“When there’s an opportunity to avoid civil war through dialogue, I, as prime minister, am taking a time out for dialogue,” Netanyahu said in a nationally televised address on Monday.
He said he was determined to pass a judicial reform but called for “an attempt to achieve broad consensus”. The delay means that the bill will not be put to a vote in parliament until the end of April at the earliest.
The government’s plan to tighten parliament’s control over judicial processes has triggered some of the biggest mass protests in Israeli history, with the plan’s opponents calling the move a threat to democracy.
Netanyahu spoke after tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated outside the Knesset or parliament and workers launched a nationwide strike in a dramatic escalation of the mass protest movement aimed at halting his plan.
The chaos shut down much of the country and threatened to paralyse the economy, with flights suspended at Ben Gurion International Airport and work halted at the country’s main seaports. Kindergartens and malls were also closed, as well as branches of the fast food chain McDonald’s.
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