Benjamin Netanyahu's UK trip under threat as pilots refuse to fly him

Tel Aviv - Ohad Zwigenberg/AP
Tel Aviv - Ohad Zwigenberg/AP

Benjamin Netanyahu has been forced to delay his visit to Britain as a number of Israeli pilots have refused to fly him, the Telegraph understands.

The Israeli government has been unable to find a pilot to take him to London in the wake of mass protests over Mr Netanyahu's hugely controversial plans to overhaul the Israeli legal system.

The prime minister is reportedly set to make a statement later on Thursday about the reforms. He has summoned his defence minister, Yoav Gallant, amid reports Mr Gallant will call for the government's judicial overhaul to be paused.

The domestic crisis could potentially lead to Mr Netanyahu cancelling his UK visit altogether if he feels compelled to stay in Israel and keep his coalition government together.

A UK Government source said: "It is understood that Israeli pilots have been refusing to take Mr Netanyahu to the UK."

Israel - Oded Balilty/AP
Israel - Oded Balilty/AP

A similar incident occurred during Mr Netanyahu's visit to Rome in March, when pilots also reportedly refused to fly him.

According to Israeli media reports, Mr Netanyahu is still due to fly at 4am local time on Friday morning, having abandoned plans to fly on Thursday evening.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets demanding that Mr Netanyahu, who was re-elected in November, end the legal overhaul.

Critics of his reforms claim they will turn Israel into a "dictatorship" as they will weaken the Israeli supreme court and increase the government's influence over the appointment of judges.

Mr Netanyahu was due to meet with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday. Israeli officials said the regional threat posed by Iran is due to be at the top of the agenda.

The Telegraph has approached Mr Netanyahu's office for comment.