After hours of intense protests on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his administration was suspending its controversial plan to reform the judicial system.
Israelis Go on General Strike Over Judicial Reform
"I decided to freeze the decision on judicial amendments and give a chance for dialogue... We are at the climax of a serious crisis that endangers our unity," he said, as reported by Al Mayadeen.
The overhaul, proposed by the ruling coalition and aimed at curbing judicial power, has bitterly divided the country for weeks, with tens of thousands taking to the streets in demonstrations and blocking major highways across Israel.
Earlier in the day, Histadrut, a union which represents 800,000 workers from infrastructures, banking, transportation, health and other sectors, declared a general strike.
The Israel Airports Authority canceled all departures at the Ben Gurion Airport, affecting 36,500 passengers. Factories, banks, shopping malls and local authorities participating in the strike also shut down services.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Medical Association announced a one-day strike at all public hospitals and community clinics. At noon, the Azrieli Group and BIG Group, two of Israel's largest mall chains, joined the strike and shut down dozens of their shopping centers across the country.
Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu canceled the announcement of the suspension of judicial reform amid rumors that Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir had threatened to resign.
Ben-Gvir, leader of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Power party and a key partner in the coalition government, said he would quit the coalition if the reform plan was frozen, a move that would cause the coalition to lose its parliamentary majority and possibly lead to new elections.
Nevertheless, given the impossibility of containing the forceful protests of thousands of citizens, the Israeli Prime Minister actually made the announcement of the suspension.
The government's plan to overhaul the country's judiciary and weaken the Supreme Court has sparked an uproar and massive protests since the government was sworn in in December.
For weeks, the country's leading businesspersons, legal experts, and security officials have called on Netanyahu to suspend the overhaul.
Late on Sunday, Netanyahu announced he had dismissed Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after he called the government to temporarily halt the contentious plan and hold talks with opposition parties about the reforms. He was the first minister in the cabinet and senior member of Netanyahu's Likud party to break ranks.
The sack of Gallant triggered fresh round of protests across the country that night, with tens of thousands of people bursting onto streets in a rare show of defiance. One demonstration blocked the Ayalon Highway, Israel's main freeway, for about nine hours until the police dispersed them with water cannons.
Late at night, Simcha Rothman, a coalition lawmaker and chairman of the parliament committee which prepares the bills of the overhaul plan, announced his committee would continue advancing the legislation as planned.
In the morning, as the barricades on Ayalon Highway were cleared, Israeli President Isaac Herzog issued a plea, urging Netanyahu to immediately suspend the overhaul. He called on the ministers to put aside political considerations and prioritize the interests of the nation.
"The entire nation is rapt with deep worry. Our security, economy, society -- all are under threat. The whole people of Israel are looking at you," Herzog said.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said the crisis was putting Israel in chaos. "We've never been closer to falling apart. Our national security is at risk, our economy is crumbling, our foreign relations are at their lowest point ever... We have been taken hostage by a bunch of extremists with no brakes and no boundaries," he pointed out.
For months, Netanyahu had argued that the overhaul was necessary in order to curb the "overly activist" Supreme Court. Critics of the overhaul plan worry that Netanyahu, who is on trial for fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes, is in a conflict of interests..