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Netanyahu, Gallant to address nation amid mass civil disobedience

Israeli prime minister delays trip to London • Defense minister reportedly will call for a halt to the judicial reform initiative.

From left: Israel Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi visit the IAF control center, Jan. 25, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.
From left: Israel Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi visit the IAF control center, Jan. 25, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has delayed his trip to London and will address the nation at 8:40 p.m. on Thursday amid mass civil disobedience by opponents of the government’s judicial reform program.

His announcement came after Defense Minister Yoav Gallant released a statement saying that he would also be addressing the country. Gallant is expected to call for an immediate halt to the reform package.

Netanyahu, according to reports, subsequently summoned Gallant to his office, where he was set to ask his defense minister not to publicly oppose the judicial reforms.

The premier was set to request that the defense minister not publicly oppose the judicial reforms.

Army Radio reported on Tuesday that members of the Israel Defense Forces General Staff believe that if the phenomenon of reservists refusing to serve grows, the military’s operational capabilities will be impaired within a month.

Gallant, addressing a General Staff meeting the same day, said: “The call for refusal is dangerous and a widespread phenomenon that could harm the IDF’s ability to carry out its tasks.”

Gallant warned Netanyahu about the danger of the refusal phenomenon following 37 of 40 reserve pilots in an air-force squadron declaring earlier this month their refusal to attend training.

Following those conversations, Netanyahu told other ministers that he believes it is highly probable that if there is no compromise, Gallant will resign, Channel 12 reported.

However, the Likud Party, of which both men are members, said, “The report regarding Minister Gallant is not true.”

Israel again suffered major disruptions across the country on Thursday as tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets.

With more than 150 demonstrations scheduled, the “Day of Paralysis” began in the morning with a protest at the Airport City business park adjacent to Ben-Gurion Airport. The protesters were blocking the roads ahead of a conference featuring the participation of Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter and Economy Minister Nir Barkat. The protesters broke into the conference complex, shouting, “Shame.”

As Dichter was leaving the conference, a female protester was filmed striking him on the head with an Israeli flag, an action that was immediately denounced by Netanyahu.

“I strongly condemn the attack on Minister Avi Dichter by a left-wing activist and demand that opposition leaders immediately stop the anarchy, violence and incitement against elected officials,” said the premier.

“I demand that the police and the State Attorney’s Office take immediate and firm action against anyone who lays a hand on elected officials—before it’s too late,” he added.

Demonstrators were also planning to again block Netanyahu from departing for a diplomatic trip after unsuccessful attempts to prevent him from flying to Rome and Berlin over the past two weeks. Netanyahu was scheduled to depart for London on Thursday evening to meet with U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. He has delayed the trip until at least Friday morning.

In Tel Aviv, demonstrators blocked Kaplan Street, a major thoroughfare in the central section of the city.

Police deployed water cannons in the afternoon to disperse demonstrators who had blocked the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv for more than two hours. Forty-two persons were arrested for disturbing the peace as police cleared traffic from the north-south freeway running through the city.

Earlier in the day, water cannons were used in Haifa.

There were more arrests, violence and roads blocked in different parts of the country as the mass disruptions continued.

Dozens were arrested for public disorder.

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