Unions launch widespread strikes in Israel after Netanyahu fires defense official

Israelis opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan set up bonfires and block a highway during a protest moments after the Israeli leader fired his defense minister, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, March 26, 2023. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had called on Netanyahu to freeze the plan, citing deep divisions in the country and turmoil in the military. (AP Photo/Oren Ziv)

Unions in Israel have launched widespread strikes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired a defense official who challenged his controversial plan to reform the nation’s judiciary. 

Netanyahu ousted Yoav Gallant on Sunday after the defense minister broke ranks to call for a pause to Netanyahu’s judicial reform plans over concerns about turmoil within Israel’s military. 

Gallant’s firing prompted a surge of nationwide demonstrations, and Israel’s largest trade union group has called for its hundreds of thousands of members across multiple sectors to stop work in protest. The Histadrut umbrella group covers nearly 800,000 workers in health, banking, transit and other industries. 

Departing flights have also been grounded at Israel’s main international airport, local governments were expected to close preschools, and doctors were expected to walk off the job as part of protests that could debilitate Israel’s economy.

The demonstrations have crowded main streets in Tel Aviv, and protesters have gathered around Netanyahu’s private residence in Jerusalem.

The Biden administration said late Sunday that it’s “deeply concerned” about Gallant’s firing, which appeared to signal Netanyahu would go forward with his judicial shake-up.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also expressed worries about the Israeli prime minister’s reform plans, which would give the executive body more power and let the government override Israel Supreme Court decisions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tags Benjamin Netanyahu Israel protest

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