Judicial Reform Compromise: Netanyahu Rejects, Opposition Reluctantly Accepts

Civil war remains on the table, warns President Isaac Herzog, until the two sides can come together for dialogue over judicial reform plan.

By TPS | | Topics: Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu
Anti-government protesters clash with police as they block a highway in Tel Aviv.
Anti-government protesters clash with police as they block a highway in Tel Aviv. Photo: Erik Marmor/Flash90

(TPS) Israel’s political crisis over controversial judicial reform deepened after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a compromise proposal put forward by President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday evening.

Protesters on Thursday blocked roads in Tel Aviv, painted a red line down a Jerusalem street leading to the Supreme Court building, and took to boats to disrupt traffic at the Port of Haifa. Doctors also demonstrated outside hospitals in Haifa and Ashdod while marches took place in other Israeli cities.

The issue followed Netanyahu to Berlin, where hundreds of protesters waved signs by the Brandenburg Gate and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz raised his concerns.

Opponents of the judicial overhaul vowed to escalate their protests after Netanyahu dismissed Herzog’s framework, which was presented in a prime-time television address.

“Anyone who thinks that a real civil war, of human life, is a line that we will not reach has no idea,” Herzog said. “The abyss is within touching distance.”

But before departing for Germany on Wednesday night, Netanyahu dismissed the proposal.

“Unfortunately, the things the president presented were not agreed to by the coalition representatives,” Netanyahu said. “And central elements of the proposal he offered just perpetuate the current situation and don’t bring the necessary balance between the branches. That is the unfortunate truth.”


Opposition reluctantly accepts

Opposition leader Yair Lapid meanwhile told a Thursday evening press conference why he reluctantly accepts the outline for a possible compromise on the government’s controversial judicial reform plan put forward a day earlier by Herzog.

“The outline presented by the president is not perfect,” said Lapid, “it is not what we wanted, but it is a fair compromise that enables a shared life. We accept the president’s outline because, in a civil war, there will only be losers. Because, unlike the government, we have a national responsibility. What lies on the other side, what [Justice Minister Levin] and [head of the Knesset Justice Committee Simcha] Rothman lead to, is the end of the idea of a Jewish and democratic state.”

In his words, Lapid echoed comments made by Herzog, who warned that without reaching some sort of compromise, Israel is in danger of devolving into a civil war.


The president’s proposals

The governing coalition’s judicial reform plan is deeply controversial. Legislation advancing through the Knesset would primarily alter the way judges are appointed and removed, give the Knesset the ability to override certain Supreme Court rulings, restrict the ability of judges to apply standards of “reasonableness,” and change the way legal advisors are appointed to government ministries.

Supporters of the legal overhaul say they want to end years of judicial overreach while opponents describe the proposals as anti-democratic.

The president’s framework for legal reforms include removing the governing coalition’s automatic majority from the judicial selection committee while abolishing the Supreme Court’s veto power over government appointments.

Herzog’s plan would also make it harder for the Supreme Court to strike down laws, requiring two-thirds of an 11-justice panel to do so. Israel’s Supreme Court has 15 justices. The president’s framework contained no provision for the Knesset to override a Supreme Court ruling.

The president’s plan also gives more constitutional weight to Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws while restricting the Supreme Court’s ability to apply the legal test of “reasonableness.”

It also leaves intact the status of legal advisers currently working in government ministries, but creates a mechanism for ministers to remove legal advisers if there are frequent and substantive disagreements. Currently, legal advisers are technically professional civil servants. The governing coalition wants to make the legal advisers political appointees.

Herzog previously offered to mediate between the government and the opposition, but Lapid vowed not to negotiate until the coalition first pauses its legislative blitz. Leaders of the governing coalition say they are willing to negotiate, but without preconditions.

The government is pushing to complete the passage of all the legislation ahead of the upcoming Passover recess.


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One response to “Judicial Reform Compromise: Netanyahu Rejects, Opposition Reluctantly Accepts”

  1. LarryFreeman says:

    Civil War? Seems a lot of talk of such, what is happening is more like civil disturbance and sedition. Herzog is using war rather liberally for a political tactic.

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