Israeli president urges Netanyahu to halt legal overhaul


TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s ceremonial president on Monday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to immediately halt a contentious overhaul of the judiciary.

Isaac Herzog’s plea comes hours after tens of thousands of people burst into the streets around the country in a spontaneous show of anger at Netanyahu’s decision to fire his defense minister after he called for a pause to the overhaul.

Herzog called on the government to put aside political considerations for the sake of the nation.

“The entire nation is rapt with deep worry. Our security, economy, society — all are under threat,” he said. “Wake up now!”

The overhaul has sparked one of Israel’s gravest domestic crises, drawing widespread opposition from business leaders, legal officials and even the country’s military.

An uneasy calm returned to the country’s streets after a raucous night of protests where tens of thousands of demonstrators lit bonfires on Tel Aviv’s main highway, blocking that major throughway as well as others throughout the country.

Netanyahu’s dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant appeared to signal that the prime minister and his allies will barrel ahead this week with the overhaul plan. Gallant had been the first senior member of the ruling Likud party to speak out against it, saying the deep divisions were threatening to weaken the military.

Netanyahu’s government still appeared to be pushing ahead for a parliamentary vote this week on a centerpiece of the overhaul — a law that would give the governing coalition the final say over all judicial appointments. It also seeks to pass laws that would would grant parliament the authority to overturn Supreme Court decisions and limit judicial review of laws.

Netanyahu and his allies say the plan will restore a balance between the judicial and executive branches and rein in what they see as an interventionist court with liberal sympathies.

But critics say the laws will remove Israel’s system of checks and balances and concentrate power in the hands of the governing coalition. They also say that Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, has a conflict of interest.

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