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Thousands demonstrated against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a demand for an immediate hostage deal, ceasefire and general elections in the state of Israel. Clashes with the Israeli police occured after protestors had set up a bonfire in front of the IDF headquarters and then blocked the Ayalon highway. Tel Aviv, Israel. March 16th 2024.

Matan Golan/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

Bibi unfazed by domestic and international pressure

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is refusing to budge, despite protests in Israel’s streets and calls for change within the US Congress. US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — America’s highest-ranking Jewish politician — recently called on Israel to hold fresh elections, stating that Bibi has “lost his way.” This weekend, thousands of Israelis demonstrated to demand early elections and the release of hostages — with protesters in Tel Aviv being met by water canons.

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Israelis demonstrate during "Day of Resistance" as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's nationalist coalition government presses on with its contentious judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, Israel.

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

What We’re Watching: Chaos in Israel, Franco-British thaw, Trump's deepening legal woes, Biden’s budget battle

Israel’s unraveling

The situation in Israel continued to unravel on Thursday when protesters against the government’s planned judicial overhaul took to the streets in a national “day of resistance.” In a bid to create a balagan (state of chaos), Israelis blocked the Ayalon Highway, a main artery leading to Tel Aviv’s international airport, to try to disrupt PM Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s planned trip to Rome (he got out)! Indeed, footage shows police using heavy-handed tactics to break up the crowds, but that didn’t appear tough enough for far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who proceeded to fire the Tel Aviv district commander, decrying police for “not fulfilling my orders.” Israel's attorney general has since ordered the freezing of the police chief's ouster, citing legal concerns. Meanwhile, in a very rare emotional speech, President Isaac Herzog – who holds a mostly ceremonial position and remains above the fray of day-to-day politics – urged the government to ditch the judicial reforms. Crucially, things took a turn for the worse Thursday night when a Palestinian gunman opened fire on gatherers in central Tel Aviv, wounding at least three people. With deepening twin crises at home – a constitutional catastrophe and deteriorating security situation – Bibi is going to have a harder time than ever keeping his discordant far-right coalition intact.

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