(Photo Credit: AP)
The UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak canceled his plans to attend a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled on 24 March, citing Tel Aviv’s controversial judicial overhaul.
On the same day, hundreds of protesters ranging from Israeli nationals to Jewish UK citizens gathered outside of the British prime minister’s office on 10 Downing Street, urging Netanyahu to revoke his proposed judicial reforms, which would essentially grant his far-right coalition government the power to control Tel Aviv’s judicial system, as it would be able to hand-pick the court’s judges.
According to local reports, demonstrators at the scene were shouting “shame” in Hebrew following the arrival of Netanyahu’s convoy. Several protesters carried signs captioned “dictators are not welcome” and other slogans that criticize his authoritarian hold of Israel.
Reports also indicate the Sunak bailed from the press conference at the last minute despite pressure from several associates of Netanyahu’s government. However, there are photographs of Netanyahu’s arrival in the UK and his handshake with the British prime minister. The Israeli prime minister reportedly departed from the UK back to Israel on the same day.
Meanwhile, the head of the Shin Bet intelligence agency, Ronen Bar, warned Netanyahu that his political decisions, paired with a deteriorating social crisis and the growing threat of the Palestinian resistance, are taking Israel “to a very dangerous place.”
“The combination of the security threats and the social situation in the context of the [judicial overhaul] legislation are taking Israel to a dangerous place,” Israel’s Channel 12 quotes Bar as saying.
Last month, Bar held a similar meeting with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to warn him about inciting violence in occupied East Jerusalem.
Israel’s defense officials have issued several stern warnings to Netanyahu about his plans to overhaul the judiciary system in a scheme that will essentially grant Israel’s far-right coalition government the authority to limit the power of the high court of justice, the attorney general.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant threatened to resign earlier this week if the judicial overhaul is approved. In addition, army Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi recently presented intelligence materials to Netanyahu with explicit warnings about his plans.
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been taking to the streets over the past several weeks to protest against Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan. Hundreds of army reservists have also joined these calls by halting their voluntary service.