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Netanyahu coalition slams Israeli President Herzog’s judicial-reform compromise plan as ‘biased,’ ‘one-sided’

Herzog’s outline suggests the ruling coalition would not have a majority in the selection committee that appoints Supreme Court judges

Israeli President Isaac Herzog presents his outline for a compromise on judicial reform, Mar. 15, 2023 (Photo: Screenshot/GPO)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog presented on Wednesday his outline for a compromise between Israel’s ruling coalition and the opposition over the controversial judicial reforms being considered by the Israeli parliament.

In a live speech to the nation, Herzog laid out what he called the “People’s Directive.” The president opened his remarks with a grave warning, saying that “anyone who thinks that a genuine civil war, with human lives, is a line that we could never reach – has no idea what he is talking about.” 

“It is precisely now, in the State of Israel’s 75th year of independence, that the abyss is within touching distance. Today, I say to you what I told them: civil war is a red line! I will not allow it to happen! At any price,” he said.

Herzog’s detailed alternative framework for resolving the crisis was posted online, including on social media. He referred to it as a “an opportunity for a balanced, wise and consensual constitutional settlement.”

The main proposals in Herzog’s plan pertain to the composition of the selections committee that appoints the judges to the country’s highest court, the role of the attorney general, the definition of “Basic Law” and the Supreme Court’s authority to overturn parliamentary decisions. 

Here are the some of the key suggestions of the president’s directive: 

  • The judicial selection committee will include 11 members, which will not include a majority for the government’s ruling coalition. The committee will select judges to the Supreme Court by a minimum vote of seven members.

  • The Supreme Court may determine that a law is invalid in an expanded panel of no fewer than 11 judges and by a majority of no less than two-thirds of the panel.

  • Provisions in the Basic Law: In the Knesset need to be passed in four readings, with a 80 vote majority on the fourth reading. Any election related Basic Law has to be passed with 80 votes on all four readings.

  • The decisions of the government plenary regarding matters of policy and appointments of ministers will not be reviewed by a court under the “reasonableness” standard alone. 

  • The opinion of the attorney general and the legal advisers to the government ministries regarding the law will be binding for the offices, departments and agencies in which they serve. 

  • An agreed outline for military service or civil-national service legislation shall be set forth.  

“The framework that I present today represents the golden mean, which accommodates in a fitting, fair, balanced, and constructive manner these perspectives, beliefs, concerns and anxieties. It reflects the zone of agreement and the greatest possible common ground,” Herzog claimed. 

According to the president, the “People’s Directive” addresses the important need for diversity in the justice system and commits the justice system to necessary and overdue changes. At the same time, it “anchors a fair and balanced relationship between the branches of government” and is committed to the principles of Israel’s Declaration of Independence and the separation of powers. 

“As I have already said: If only one side wins, the State of Israel will lose. In this framework, there is no winning side and losing side. This is a framework with which all victory goes to the State of Israel,” Herzog said. 

Reactions to the president’s proposal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the president’s outline. 

“The things the president proposes were not agreed on by the coalition, and central elements of the proposal he offered just perpetuate the existing situation, and don’t bring the necessary balance between the branches,” Netanyahu told reporters before boarding a flight to Berlin.

Coalition leaders released a joint statement, calling Herzog’s proposal “one-sided, biased and unacceptable” and saying it “ignores the root problems.”

Israeli Transportation Minister Miri Regev said on social media that Herzog’s framework is “an insult to the intelligence of the public.”

Knesset speaker Amir Ohana said the outline “does not provide an answer to the ills of the relationship between the judiciary, the Knesset and the government.”

“We have a responsibility to the sovereign (the people). We have a responsibility for democracy, and the rule of the people,” he said.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid promised to address Herzog’s plan “with respect.” He accused the coalition of expressing “contempt for the institution of the presidency, complete disdain for the gravity of the moment and erasure of the idea that we are one nation.”

National Unity Party, led by Benny Gantz, announced that it would agree to implement the president’s proposal.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wrote on Twitter that, “as a member of the right-wing camp who has been talking about legal reform for any years, this outline is not the fulfillment of my whole dream.” 

Nevertheless, he called on the opposition and the coalition to adopt the president’s outline to bring an end to the crisis. 

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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