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Herzog bemoans ‘national emergency’ as final votes taken on ‘reasonableness’ bill

The Israeli president reiterated call for compromise on judicial reform.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog speaks at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, July 17, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog speaks at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, July 17, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

Israel is “in a state of national emergency,” President Isaac Herzog said on Monday as he worked to forge a last-minute compromise on judicial reform legislation close to becoming law.

“We are working around the clock, in every possible way, to find a solution. The infrastructure for a possible understanding exists, yet gaps remain that require the various parties to show responsibility,” the president added in a statement.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid subsequently announced that the talks had broken down, and the hours-long voting process to pass into law an amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary kicked off.

The law would limit the Supreme Court’s use of the so-called reasonableness standard to strike down Knesset legislation and government decisions.

Video by Yoav Dudkevitch/TPS.

Leaders of the opposition said they would boycott the third and final reading of the “reasonableness bill” unless a consensus was reached on the issue.

Coalition members were discussing a last-minute compromise even as voting was underway on the plenum floor with a litany of opposition reservations being voted down before the final votes.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin was opposed to any changes being initiated by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Coalition members were consulting legal experts on how a compromise would be facilitated even though the bill was in the final voting stages.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir confirmed that some ministers were negotiating a compromise.

“Unfortunately, parts of the coalition are negotiating with each other and considering reaching a compromise that would overturn the bill. Any compromise in the votes on the “reasonableness bill” would be a disgrace to the entire right,” Ben-Gvir said.

Gallant will vote with the coalition on the bill despite expressing reservations. The coalition on Saturday said that any minister not voting with the coalition would be fired.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at his Jerusalem office in the afternoon after being released from the hospital following a procedure to implant a cardiac pacemaker overnight Saturday.

He met with both Levin and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

Senior military officials earlier briefed the Security Cabinet, the Defense Ministry said.

“The IDF will brief Cabinet ministers this morning regarding the security situation and the IDF’s readiness,” Gallant’s office said in a statement.

The briefing comes as thousands of military reservists are threatening not to report for duty if the amendment passes.

A U.S. official told Axios that the crisis in the military is causing concern at the Pentagon that it “could have negative implications for Israel’s deterrence strategy and encourage Iran or Hezbollah to conduct military provocations that could escalate the situation in the region.

“The crisis, especially within the Israeli Air Force, could also have negative operational implications for U.S. forces that closely cooperate with Israel in the region,” the Axios report stated.

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