The first meeting between coalition and opposition delegations to discuss Israel’s judicial reforms took place last night at Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s residence.
The negotiations started after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called to halt the judicial reform legislation that the coalition has been advancing over the last two months.
Representatives from the coalition, as well as the Yesh Atid and National Unity opposition parties, met for a 90-minute discussion aimed at building a friendly atmosphere for further dialogue. The Yisrael Beytenu and Labor parties did not send representatives to the meeting, saying they doubted Netanyahu was negotiating in good faith. However, both groups said they could send their representatives soon.
According to officials, the meeting was held to discuss the general outline of the negotiations going forward and went forward without issues.
Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman said his party would join negotiations if Netanyahu retracts the submission of the judicial selection bill to the Knesset secretary.
“Negotiations cannot be conducted when Netanyahu and his partners continue in the legislative process,” Liberman wrote on social media.
The bill was tabled on Tuesday, with the coalition calling it a “technical move.”
Opposition parties argued that the move demonstrated the coalition was not negotiating in good faith, since tabling the bill allows it to go to final vote within 24 hours’ notice.
Some of Netanyahu’s coalition partners have opposed the negotiations. Director of the Religious Zionism party, Yehuda Wald, said he does not trust Herzog to be objective.
“The president is unfortunately not objective. We need to talk and reach a balanced outline. But without him, he is part of the problem, not the solution,” Wald said.
Most Israelis do not share this sentiment. Polls demonstrate that Herzog is considered to be one of the most trusted figures for most Israelis in the current political situation.
The president held meetings at his residence on Wednesday, as well, hosting representatives of the United Arab List (Ra’am), Hadash Ta’al and Labor parties.
During the meeting, Herzog announced that he would invite all political parties to bring their concerns and suggestions to the dialogue. This morning’s meetings are with groups who were not represented in last night’s discussion.
Labor party head Merav Michaeli, who initially said Labor would not participate in the talks, said Wednesday, “We decided after much and significant deliberation that it is our duty to be there.”
Several heads of the protest movement wrote a joint letter to opposition heads Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid asking them to withdraw from the negotiations, saying the talks were a “deception” from Netanyahu.
“Yesterday we saw another attempt at deception and public manipulation by a leader who has lost his inhibitions and is not fit to lead the country,” the letter said.
The letter claimed that the negotiations “do not represent us” and encouraged continued protests. Some political commentators note that there are leaders in the protest movement who are opposed to Netanyahu, in general, more than specifically against the judicial reforms.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.