Nearly All Of Israel Shuts Down, Forces Netanyahu To Back Down On Proposed Reforms

(Photo by HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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Hundreds of thousands of Israelis stayed home from work Monday, or took to the streets, and successfully compelled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to drop proposed judicial reforms.

Activists from across the political spectrum organized a general strike, which saw a shutdown of major businesses, transportation hubs and government services in the country. Both opposition and allies of Netanyahu have protested against his proposed judicial reforms, which would allow the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body, to overrule its supreme court with a simple majority vote.

Unrest has swept the country for weeks but escalated Sunday night after Netanyahu fired his Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, who was a member of his own Likud Party. Gallant had warned that divisions in Israel over Netanyahu’s proposals threatened the country’s security.

Protesters gathered in a number of cities, with tens of thousands demonstrating in Tel Aviv and being met with water cannons by police.

Monday, Israel’s largest trade union called for a general strike, which brought dozens of industries to a screeching halt.

Israeli embassies around the world shut down due to diplomats participating in the strike, according to NBC News. Israel’s two largest ports were also closed and flights from Ben-Gurion International Airport were grounded around 11 a.m. local time.

McDonald’s also opted to shut down operations around the country around mid-day. Numerous leading universities closed up shop as well.

In addition to Gallant, Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog, also called for the reforms to be reconsidered. The government’s Consul General in New York, Asaf Zamir, resigned in protest. (RELATED: Israeli Defense Forces Pilots Boycott Training To Protest Netanyahu Judicial Reforms)

Netanyahu agreed to put the proposed reforms on pause Monday until the next session of the Knesset, one of his coalition partners announced in a statement.

Netanyahu’s government has faced fierce pushback in the months since it was inaugurated due to expanded settlement activity in the West Bank and raids against Palestinians. Violence on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has risen to its highest level in years.