Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a judicial compromise proposal presented on Wednesday night by President Isaac Herzog during an address to the nation earlier in the evening.
“I think that any attempt to reach an agreement and dialogue is certainly appropriate, and therefore coalition representatives have spoken with the president time and time again, while the opposition has not even been prepared for a single discussion,” said Netanyahu.
“The issues presented by the president were not agreed upon by the coalition and key clauses in his outline only perpetuate the current situation and do not bring the necessary balance between the branches,” stated the premier. “This is the unfortunate truth.”
Herzog presented what he termed the “people’s plan,” beginning his speech by painting a bleak picture of Israel’s political situation, in which protests have roiled the country, saying that he had spoken to thousands of citizens and never before heard such “frightening rhetoric.”
“I’ve heard real, deep hatred. I’ve heard people from all sides [say] that, God forbid, if there’ll be blood in the streets, it will no longer shock them,” he said.
“I’m going to use a phrase I haven’t used before—an expression that no Israeli isn’t horrified by when he hears it. Anyone who thinks that a real civil war involving human life is a line we will not reach has no clue. Right now, in the 75th year of the State of Israel, the abyss is within reach,” he said.
Netanyahu reiterated on Sunday that he was elected to pursue change and accused the opposition of trying to overthrow his government.
“Only four months ago, we held elections. The government I head received a clear mandate from the citizens of Israel. The fact that for two whole months, our repeated calls for dialogue received no response from the opposition proves that what interests the opposition is not the judicial reforms, but the creation of anarchy and the overthrow of the elected government,” he said.
“It is impossible to be in favor of the success of the Israeli economy and to encourage the flight of funds from Israel. It is impossible to be in favor of the rule of law and to encourage violations of the law. It is impossible to be in favor of the security of the state and to encourage insubordination that would collapse the security of the state,” said the premier.
“There is no conditional Zionism,” he added.
Last week, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, one of the main architects of the reforms, met with several prominent public figures who drafted a reform compromise proposal. Levin responded favorably to the outline, with sources from his office reportedly calling it a “breakthrough” and the “first outline that goes outside the box.”
A day earlier, Levin and Knesset member Simcha Rothman, another principal advocate of the reforms who chairs the Knesset Law Committee that is dealing with the legislation, accepted a proposal by the Israel Manufacturers Association, the Chambers of Commerce and groups representing tech companies and building contractors for talks starting at the President’s Residence without preconditions.
“From the very first day, we said we were in favor of a dialogue in an attempt to reach an understanding on the reform and at least to reduce the controversy,” the leaders of the reform said in a joint statement. “We respond to the call for talks without preconditions and call on others in the opposition to respond to the initiative and attend talks with the president.”
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid has rejected numerous overtures to negotiate and has instead conditioned any talks on the government freezing the accompanying legislative process.