Jerusalem—Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Monday called for an immediate halt to the government’s controversial judicial reforms, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked his defence minister for similar demands.
Herzog, who has a largely ceremonial role, made the call following large demonstrations in Tel Aviv overnight where protesters again charged that the judicial overhaul package threatens Israel’s democracy.
“For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of the necessary responsibility, I call on you to halt the legislative process immediately,” Herzog said in a statement.
The plan to hand more control to politicians and diminish the role of the Supreme Court has ignited a wave of protests and been questioned by Israel’s top allies including the United States, which expressed concern Sunday.
The government argues the changes are needed to rebalance powers between lawmakers and the judiciary.
Yoav Galant, the former defence minister and long-time ally of Netanyahu, earlier called for a halt to the reforms—with lawmakers due to vote this week on a central part of the proposals, which would change the way judges are appointed.
On Sunday, moments after Netanyahu sacked Galant, demonstrators seized a central highway cutting through the coastal city of Tel Aviv, blocking traffic and burning tyres.
Some threw metal barricades at mounted officers while police deployed water cannon.
“Last night we witnessed very difficult scenes,” Herzog said.
“The entire nation is rapt with deep worry,” he added, in an appeal to the government. “Our security, economy, society—all are under threat.
“The whole people of Israel are looking at you. The whole Jewish people are looking at you. The whole world is looking at you.”
Herzog also appealed to politicians on all sides “to place this country’s citizens above all else and to act with courage and responsibility without further delay.”