Bending to a wave of mass protests, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed his contentious judicial overhaul plan Monday and said he wanted 'to avoid civil war' by making time to seek a compromise with political opponents.
The announcement appeared to calm some of the tensions that have fueled three tumultuous months of unrest. But it failed to address the underlying issues that have polarized the nation, and the antigovernmental protest movement vowed to intensify its efforts.
In his prime-time address, Netanyahu, who had previously rejected calls to delay the legislation, took a more conciliatory tone than in recent speeches. He acknowledged the deep divisions in the country and said he was hitting the pause button 'to prevent a rift in the nation.'
'When there's an opportunity to avoid civil war through dialogue, I, as prime minister, am taking a timeout for dialogue,' he said. He vowed to reach a 'broad consensus' during the summer session of parliament, which begins on April 30.
He spoke after tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated outside parliament, and the country's largest labor union launched a nationwide strike in a dramatic escalation of the mass protest movement against his plan.