Departing flights grounded from Israel's Ben Gurion Airport as part of nationwide protests

The strike by workers in health, transit and banking, among many other fields, could paralyse large parts of country's economy

By AP

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Published: Mon 27 Mar 2023, 12:30 PM

Israel’s Airports Authority says departing flights from the country’s main international airport have been grounded following a strike called in protest against the government’s planned judicial overhaul.

Tens of thousands are expected to be affected by the flight changes. Planes will for the moment still be able to land at Ben-Gurion Airport, outside the sprawling seaside metropolis of Tel Aviv.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul has sparked unprecedented opposition from across Israeli society.

The strike by the Histadrut umbrella group, which represents more than 700,000 workers in health, transit and banking, among many other fields, could paralyse large parts of Israel's economy, which is already on shaky ground, ratcheting up the pressure on Netanyahu to suspend the overhaul.


The growing resistance to the plan came 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 defence minister after he called for a pause to the overhaul. Chanting “the country is on fire,” they lit bonfires on Tel Aviv's main highway, closing the throughway and many others throughout the country for hours.

The overhaul, driven by Netanyahu and his allies has plunged Israel into one of its worst domestic crises. It has sparked a sustained and intensifying protest movement that has spread to nearly all sectors of society, including its military, where reservists have increasingly come out publicly to say they will not serve a country veering toward autocracy.

The crisis has further divided Israel, magnifying longstanding and intractable differences over the country's character that have riven it since its establishment. The protesters say they are fighting for the very soul of the nation, seeing the overhaul as a direct challenge to Israel's democratic ideals. The government has labelled them anarchists out to topple a democratically-elected leadership.

On Monday, as the embers of the highway bonfires were being cleared, Israel’s ceremonial President Isaac Herzog urged Netanyahu to immediately halt the overhaul, calling 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!”

Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former ally turned rival of Netanyahu's, said Monday that Israel was “in a landslide of losing control.”

"We haven't been in such a dangerous situation in 50 years,” he told Israeli Army Radio.

Universities across the country said they were shutting their doors “until further notice.” A trade union umbrella group was expected to announce that it was joining the protesters and was reportedly set to launch a general strike. Israeli media reported that a lawyer representing Netanyahu in his corruption trial threatened to quit if the overhaul was not halted.


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