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Herzog: ‘We are closer than ever to agreement on judicial reforms’

“Now it depends on our national leadership, the coalition and the opposition, who need to rise to the occasion,” said the Israeli president.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog speaks about the government's judicial reform plans, Feb. 12, 2023. Source: YouTube.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog speaks about the government's judicial reform plans, Feb. 12, 2023. Source: YouTube.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Monday told a gathering of some 100 municipal officials that a compromise judicial reform proposal was nearly complete, and called on lawmakers to find common ground.

“The reforms as they currently stand endanger the democratic foundations of the State of Israel,” said Herzog. “I have already said that it is absolutely legitimate to discuss reforming the judicial system, and aspects of the proposal are indeed advisable. In the last few weeks, I have done everything in my power to bring about discussion and enable the sides to reach an agreement,” he added.

“We are closer than ever to the possibility of an outline. There are agreements behind the scenes on most things,” continued Herzog. “Now it depends on our national leadership, the coalition and the opposition, who need to rise to the occasion and understand the terrible alternative and put the country and its citizens above everything else.”

He noted that the outline he is formulating “gives answers to both sides” while “lay[ing] down important and historical constitutional foundations, anchored within a healthy structure of balance between the authorities.”

The alternative proposal “protects democracy and human rights at all costs and the independence of the judicial system,” said Herzog, adding: “It protects Israel as a Jewish and democratic state based on the principles of the Declaration of Independence.”

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid has rejected numerous overtures to hold talks under the president’s auspices without preconditions, from officials ranging from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Justice Minister Yariv Levin to Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Simcha Rothman.

Instead, Lapid has called on the governing coalition to freeze its judicial reform legislation.

“For eight weeks we have been calling for negotiations. We are bringing the reform to the Knesset to decide,” Netanyahu said on Sunday. “I call upon those in the opposition to do something simple: Present your alternative in an attempt to reach an agreement.”

The premier added that with goodwill an agreement could be reached “within days.”

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir warned on Monday that the potential for political violence in the country is real and placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the opposition.

“In contrast to those leading the civil-war campaign, the incitement to murder, the refusal to serve in the IDF and BDS against the state, I read the intelligence reports and receive ongoing situation assessments,” said Ben-Gvir.

“The fear of bloodshed is real. The irresponsible leadership on the left has lost its [compass],” he added.

Earlier, Ben-Gvir told the Kan News public broadcaster that “It is forbidden to generalize, most of [the protesters] are good people, but there are those among them who are planning the next assassination, who say that me and [first lady] Sara Netanyahu should be taken down, that Benjamin Netanyahu should be killed.”

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