Herzog Says Israel Close to Compromise on Judicial Overhaul3 min read
On Monday, President Isaac Herzog said that ‘behind-the-scenes’ talks were taking place and a compromise agreement would soon be reached between the two sides over the judicial overhaul.
The proposals put forward by the new hardline government have polarized the society for the last two months.
The president said that they were quite close to agreeing on a framework, but did not specify anyone’s involvement in the negotiations.
He made the remarks in his office during an ‘emergency meeting’, which had been held for garnering the support of almost 100 local authority leaders and mayors in calling for a political compromise.
He said that most of things had already been agreed upon behind the scenes and they were reasonable and sensible.
He also added that democracy would be at risk if the current reforms are not tempered. Opposition party leaders, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, responded to the statement.
They reiterated their demand of halting the legislative process before they initiate dialogue for a compromise.
They said in a joint statement that effective and honest dialogue for preserving national unity and democracy would only happen when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces a complete halt to the process.
They said that they are violating real communication by attempting to take shortcuts.
Operating above the political fray is what is expected of Israel’s presidency and so far, Herzog has not played the role of decision maker.
Instead, he has positioned himself as mediator and facilitator because he wants the coalition and the opposition to come to an agreement.
Three weeks ago, he had made a forceful and rare public call for dialogue and since then, he has also had meetings with Gantz and Lapid and reform lawmaker Simcha Rothman.
He also spoke with a number of politicians quietly and discussed reform possibilities with a number of civil society organizations.
Speaking of the developing framework, Herzog only shared superficial details and said that both sides of the political debate would see solutions.
The coalition has argued that the changes they have planned are necessary for ‘rebalancing’ state power by constraining an activist judiciary.
But, the opposition claims that democracy will suffer if they strip independent courts of their authorities, which keep political power in check.
Herzog said that the principals that had been included in the plan were aimed at ensuring that Israel remains a democratic and Jewish state in accordance with the Declaration of Independence.
These would include preserving the independence of the courts, protection of human rights, maintaining a ‘healthy’ balance among state authorities and making the judiciary diverse.
It had been reported last week that the discussions included a framework for changing the appointment of judges and how quasi-constitutional Basic Laws are legislated by the Knesset.
The report said that neither the coalition, nor the judges would be given automatic vetoes. Currently, both professional and political camps are required to agree when Supreme Court Justices are appointed.
But, lawyers and judges have the authority of overruling politicians when making appointments for lower courts.