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Coalition, opposition leaders reject judicial reform compromise

Both sides poured cold water on reports that an agreement had been reached following "intense" talks at the President's Residence in Jerusalem.

President Isaac Herzog (center) leads negotiations on judicial reform at his official residence in Jerusalem, March 28, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.
President Isaac Herzog (center) leads negotiations on judicial reform at his official residence in Jerusalem, March 28, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Leaders of both Israel’s coalition and opposition have rejected a compromise proposal regarding contentious judicial reform legislation, brokered by Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

In an interview with Kol BaRama radio on Tuesday, Justice Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) said, “It is impossible to agree to the compromise proposal,” emphasizing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed his position.

“There is no change in the prime minister regarding the reform, despite all the publications,” said Levin.

Channel 12 reported on Monday that Netanyahu had largely agreed to the framework of an agreement.

“Intense” talks on a compromise proposal took place at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem in recent weeks, according to the report.

Herzog is currently on a brief diplomatic trip to Europe—the president was scheduled to visit Austria on Tuesday after a state visit to Slovakia the previous day.

While noting progress on reaching a compromise, Herzog denied the Channel 12 report that an agreement had been reached. The Likud Party and Levin also denied that a deal was in hand.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir also said that he would oppose the compromise, adding that his Otzma Yehudit Party members would vote against “any surrender” should it come up for a vote.

However, Construction and Housing Minister Yitzchak Goldknopf said that his United Torah Judaism Party would “support any decision by Netanyahu to reach agreements.”

Opposition leader and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid arrived in Washington on Tuesday for meetings with senior American officials and has not as of yet commented on the judicial reform proposal. However, Kan News reported that members of the opposition said that they are not part of the talks and claimed that Netanyahu was “looking for an entry ticket to the United States,” in an apparent reference to the Israeli premier not yet having been invited to the White House.

Labor MK Naama Lazimi told Ynet that the opposition would not support an agreement.

“This is not a compromise proposal. We both say the same thing, just in the opposite way. I was in favor of the talks at the president’s house, but we are dealing with people who are not telling the truth, and there is a big question mark about the people who sit in this government. … Bottom line: We will not support such an agreement,” she said.

Labor MK Gilad Kariv also came out against the compromise in an interview with Ynet, saying, “I learned that what smells like spin and acts like spin, is spin.”

Yisrael Beiteinu chair MK Avigdor Lieberman, too, attacked the compromise proposal, Channel 12 reported, claiming that it was a “fraudulent exercise.”

National Unity leader Benny Gantz, however, reportedly agreed to review the proposal.

“I am ready to reach agreements,” Gantz said at a Jewish People Policy Institute conference on Monday. “I am not ready to compromise on the independence of the legal system, but am ready to reach agreements on certain details, such as the minimum majority for fundamental laws.”

The broad outline of the compromise reported in Israeli media includes a potential “softening” of the amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary that bars “reasonableness” as a justification for judges to reverse decisions made by the cabinet, ministers and “other elected officials as set by law.”

On July 24, all 64 lawmakers in the governing coalition voted into law a bill to restrict judges’ use of the “reasonableness” standard.

Other reported compromises include an 18-month freeze on efforts to change the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee.

Herzog earlier this year hosted a series of direct talks between the coalition and opposition with the aim to forge a compromise on judicial reform in the coming months.

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