Netanyahu rejects compromise proposal from Israeli President Herzog

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog wants to mediate with alternatives in the bitter dispute over the planned judicial reform. However, his proposals presented on Wednesday evening were immediately rejected by the governing coalition under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli President Isaac Herzog had previously entered the debate on the Israeli government’s planned judicial reform with a compromise proposal. In a speech on Wednesday evening, he called on both sides not to “destroy the country in a power struggle over the judiciary”, but to seize the opportunity for “a formative constitutional moment”.

His “golden middle ground” was developed in consultation with politicians, lawyers and experts from across the political spectrum and offers the best chance for a broad agreement on reform of the judiciary. At the same time, he warned of the danger of a worsening of the situation in the country.

“Those who think civil war is a line we will not cross have no idea,” Herzog said. He described the current situation in Israel as a “deep and worrying crisis” that also represents a “great, historic opportunity”.

Central points of the reform proposal

Herzog presented the central points of his reform proposal on a new Hebrew-language website. According to Israeli media reports on Wednesday evening, they include changes to the nominating committee for judges, which, however, do not go as far as the previous government plans envisage.

Instead of the coalition’s desired majority on the nominating committee, it would be composed of four coalition members, two opposition members, three judges and two members of the public appointed by the Minister of Justice in agreement with the President of the Supreme Court.

The compromise proposal provides for four readings in parliament for changes to the country’s quasi-constitutional basic laws, whereby the approval of 80 of the 120 MPs would be required in the fourth reading. The electoral law can only be changed if at least 80 MPs agree in all four readings.

The country’s highest court should no longer have the authority to overturn basic laws that have been passed in this way. When reviewing other laws, a majority of eight out of eleven judges is said to be required. This is Herzog’s second suggestion for a compromise on the highly controversial reform plans.

Government officials express disapproval

Members of the governing coalition voiced their disapproval immediately after Herzog’s speech. According to media reports, Cabinet Secretary Jossi Fuchs said it was a “unilateral proposal by the President that was in no way approved by any party in the coalition”. Education Minister Joav Kish of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party accused Herzog of wanting to perpetuate the existing situation with the proposal without offering a “minimal necessary balance”.

Negotiations over a possible compromise on the government’s judicial reform and the alleged incursion of a Hezbollah member into northern Israel prompted Netanyahu to cut his planned Wednesday-Friday trip to Germany to less than 24 hours.

Instead of Wednesday afternoon as initially planned, the prime minister’s flight to Berlin was postponed to late Wednesday evening. Meetings with Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier are planned for Thursday. Netanyahu will also visit the Track 17 memorial at Grunewald train station, from where German Jews were deported during the Holocaust.

Opponents of the judicial reform had demonstrated around Ben Gurion Airport during the day and disrupted traffic to make it difficult for Netanyahu to depart.

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