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Herzog holds judicial reform talks with Labor, Arab parties

Closed-door meetings with Knesset factions come after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put the brakes on the reform plan to allow time for dialogue.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog meeting with representatives from the Labor Party on March 29, 2023 at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)
Israeli President Isaac Herzog meeting with representatives from the Labor Party on March 29, 2023 at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog hosted a second day of talks at his residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday, meeting with representatives of non-coalition factions in an attempt to find a compromise regarding the government’s judicial reform plan.

The president called for the negotiations after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in a national address on Monday night that he was putting the reform effort on hold in order to “provide a real opportunity for real dialogue.”

On Wednesday morning, Herzog met with members of the Knesset’s Arab parties, United Arab List (Ra’am) and Hadash-Ta’al, and in the afternoon with representatives of the Labor Party.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog meeting with representatives from the United Arab List (Ra’am) on March 29, 2023 at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)

The meetings were closed to the media.

A 90-minute meeting took place on Tuesday involving a negotiating team from Likud, the largest party in the 25th Knesset. Yesh Atid, the second largest party in Israel’s parliament, and National Unity, the third largest party, brought delegations to the table for talks representing the opposition.

In a statement, Yesh Atid said that they had widened the scope of the talks beyond judicial reform to include pushing for a formal constitution.

“We told the president that in the 75th year of the State of Israel, we can make a real change—not just cosmetic fixes, but a widely agreed-upon constitution based on the values of the Declaration of Independence,” the delegation said in a statement.

Yesh Atid also called for the current judicial reform bills to be pulled completely “to start talks on a fresh page,” a non-starter for the coalition.

In response to U.S. President Joe Biden’s call for him to “walk away” from the reform, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that his government remained committed to “strengthening democracy by restoring the proper balance between the three branches of government, which we are striving to achieve via a broad consensus.”

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