Courtesy of JNS. Photo credit: 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 to observe the Juniper Oak exercise taking place with the U.S. military, Jan. 25, 2023.

 (March 23, 2023 / JNS)

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

Netanyahu’s announcement came after Defense Minister Yoav Gallant released a statement saying he would also be addressing the country.

Gallant is expected to call for an immediate halt to the reform package.

Army Radio reported on Tuesday that members of the IDF 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 thirty-seven of forty 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 one-hundred-fifty 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 for traffic 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.