Jerusalem (CNN) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday his controversial plans to weaken the judiciary would be delayed. Widespread strikes and protests brought the country to a standstill.
Netanyahu said he would delay the second and third votes on the remaining legislation until after the Knesset’s Passover recess in April to “give a real chance for a real debate.”
Netanyahu added that he is “aware of the concerns” and “listens to the people”.
“Due to the responsibility towards the nation, I have decided to delay the vote to allow time for debate,” he added.
But he insisted that restructuring was necessary, and reiterated his criticism of refusing to train or serve in the military in protest of the planned changes.
He said that the decision of our country is to refuse.
Reacting to Netanyahu’s announcement, Arnon Bar-David, head of the Histadrut labor union, announced that the planned general strike would now be called off.
“The general strike will cease from this moment,” Bar-David told CNN affiliate Channel 13, though he cautioned Netanyahu against reviving the law.
“If the Prime Minister returns to aggressive legislation, he will see us confront him. There will be a general strike if he passes legislation without consent.”
Earlier on Monday, the far-right Jewish Power party revealed that a deal to delay the legislation would include the creation of a national guard under the control of party leader and national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak told CNN it was a “crazy move by Netanyahu” because of Ben Gvir’s long criminal record, including a conviction for inciting racism and supporting terrorism.
A senior US official who spoke before Netanyahu’s announcement said the White House had been “very clear” both publicly and privately about its concerns about the planned changes.
“We are deeply concerned by the latest developments, which further underscore our vision for reconciliation,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
The original proposals would have made the most drastic change to the Israeli legal system since the country’s founding. The most important changes would allow a simple majority in the Knesset to overturn Supreme Court rulings; The Netanyahu government has sought to change the way judges are selected and remove independent legal advisers from government ministries.
But months of protests against the plans drew global attention and shook the country. The political crisis deepened on Sunday when Netanyahu’s office announced in a tax statement that Defense Minister Yoav Galant had been fired.
Over the next few hours, Israeli society came to a standstill as anger grew over the bill. Netanyahu has been condemned by his opponents and former Israeli prime ministers.
“We’ve never been closer to collapse. Our national security is at risk, our economy is crumbling, our foreign relations are at an all-time low, and we don’t know what to tell our children about their future in this country. We’ve been held hostage by a horde of extremists with no brakes and no borders.” Former Prime Minister Yair Labit said in the Knesset.
As he struggled to push through his bid last week, Netanyahu’s government also passed a law making it harder to oust prime ministers, which critics denounced as a self-preservation tactic.
By a final vote of 61-47, the Knesset says the prime minister or the cabinet, with a two-thirds majority, can declare the president disqualified. A Cabinet vote must be approved by a super majority in Parliament.
Netanyahu, the first Israeli prime minister to appear in court as a defendant, is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and bribery. He denies any wrongdoing.