(MENAFN) Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets on Sunday night in cities across the country to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to overhaul the judiciary. The protests were sparked by Netanyahu's abrupt firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who had spoken out against the plan, saying that the deep divisions were threatening to weaken the military. Protesters in Tel Aviv blocked a main highway and lit large bonfires, while police scuffled with protesters who gathered outside Netanyahu's private home in Jerusalem.
The protests deepened a monthslong crisis over Netanyahu's plan, which has drawn concern from business leaders, former security chiefs, and close allies, including the United States. Netanyahu's dismissal of Gallant signaled that he and his allies would continue to push ahead with the plan, despite the widespread opposition.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog also called for an immediate halt to the government's controversial plan following the large demonstrations in Tel Aviv. Likud ministers began indicating a willingness to pause the judicial overhaul plan in response to the protests. Culture Minister Micky Zohar, a Netanyahu confidant, said that the party would support the prime minister if he decided to pause the plan.
The U.S. National Security Council expressed deep concern over the developments in Israel, saying that democratic societies are strengthened by checks and balances and that fundamental changes to a democratic system should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support. The grassroots protest movement said it would hold another mass demonstration outside the Knesset, or parliament, in Jerusalem.
Asaf Zamir, the consul general of Israel in New York, resigned shortly after Gallant's dismissal, saying that he could no longer continue representing the government. Zamir expressed concern with the policies of the new government, particularly the judicial reform it was leading, which he believed undermined the foundation of Israel's democratic system and threatened the rule of law in the country.
The protests and the deepening crisis over Netanyahu's plan highlight the importance of checks and balances in a democratic society and the need for leaders to listen to the concerns of their citizens. The willingness of protesters to take to the streets and demand change is a testament to the strength of Israel's democracy and the commitment of its people to safeguard its democratic institutions.
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