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Netanyahu says reform compromise effort to continue

With the state budget passed, judicial reform is back on the government's agenda.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid, then the foreign minister, walks past Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the time the leader of the opposition, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Nov. 8, 2021. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid, then the foreign minister, walks past Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the time the leader of the opposition, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Nov. 8, 2021. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday reaffirmed his commitment to reaching a compromise on judicial reform.

“We will of course continue with our efforts to arrive at a broad consensus agreement, to the extent possible, on the issue of judicial reform,” Netanyahu said in a video message published to social media.

“I believe with goodwill and real will it’s possible to come to agreements that will serve all citizens of Israel,” the premier continued.

Immediately after the Knesset passed the state budget for 2023-2024 in the early hours of Wednesday, Netanyahu commented that the legal initiative would be returning to the government’s agenda after he pressed the pause button in late March amid mass demonstrations, a general strike and negotiations with the opposition under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog.

Asked by a reporter whether the government’s judicial reform bills, which have been on the back burner in recent weeks, would now return to the fore following the passing of the budget, Netanyahu replied, “Of course.”

However, he noted, “We are trying to reach an understanding [with the opposition parties], and I hope we will succeed in this.”

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

The president on Monday expressed optimism that a meeting of the minds on judicial reform can be reached in the coming months.

“This process takes time; no one drags their feet and no one wastes time. Unlike all kinds of spin, these discussions are very serious and very in-depth. People give of themselves and come to the room with goodwill,” Herzog said at the opening of the 2023 Herzliya Conference at Reichman University.

Direct talks between representatives of the coalition and opposition at the President’s Residence are not taking place this week due to a busy Knesset schedule, while individual meetings with Herzog are ongoing. The larger meetings are set to resume next week.

However, Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar of Likud is pessimistic about the chances of a consensus being reached in the Herzog-brokered negotiations.

“Right now our major task is to reach a broad agreement, but if we don’t reach an agreement—and it seems that we won’t …, we’ll have to advance it unilaterally,” Zohar told Channel 12.

“If some part of the reform is not passed, this coalition cannot be preserved,” he said.

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