Tens of thousands of Israelis have marched to the streets after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, for speaking out against Netanyahu’s contentious plans to restructure the justice system.
Water cannons were deployed against demonstrators near Netanyahu’s home in Jerusalem by police and military.
The reforms include plans to give the government veto power over the committee that picks judges.
The reform would also make it more difficult for courts to remove a leader considered unsuitable for office, which has enraged many who believe it would benefit Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now on trial for corruption.
Protesters say the reforms will turn Israel into a dictatorship because there will be no check on the executive and legislative powers. Netanyahu says the reforms are designed to prevent the supreme courts from having too much power and that they were voted for by the public in the last election.
Gallant, a former soldier who has been hearing from reservists who are upset with the proposed rule change for weeks, spoke out against it on Saturday, saying members of the Israeli Defense Forces are outraged and disappointed.
Netanyahu, who was abroad of the country at the time of Gallant’s TV appearance, sacked him on Sunday, saying he no longer trusted him as defense minister.
The news of Gallant’s dismissal reawakened the protests that had been going on in Israel over the previous week, and their numbers increased.
After protesting outside Netanyahu’s residence, protestors – many of them were waving Israeli flags and banging pots and pans – avoided police and made their way to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.
Protesters holding flags stopped one of Tel Aviv’s main motorways for more than two hours before being evacuated by mounted police and water cannon.
Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog, took to Twitter early Monday morning to call on the cabinet to suspend the measures.
“For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of responsibility, I call on you to stop the legislative process immediately,” he said on Twitter, adding that “the eyes of all the people of Israel are on you”.
The US also said it was deeply concerned about the developments and called for a compromise.
A White House spokeswoman said; “As the president recently discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu, democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the US-Israel relationship.”
She added that “fundamental changes” to a democratic system should be “pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support”.
“We continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible.”
Gallant and Nethayanhu are members of the same Likud party.
After he was fired, Gallant took to Twitter to reaffirm: “The state of Israel’s security has always been and will always be my life’s mission.”
Israel’s opposition leader Yair Lapid described Gallant’s sacking as “a new low” for the government.
“Netanyahu can fire Gallant, but he can’t fire reality or fire the people of Israel who are fronting up to resist the coalition’s madness,” Lapid added.