Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a compromise proposal on the government’s plans to reform the country’s judiciary presented by President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday evening, saying it only perpetuated the imbalance between the branches of government.
Herzog, addressing the nation in a prime time address, called for a “constitutional moment” amid what he said was a “nightmare” with “civil war looming.”
“Those who think that a civil war is a border we won’t reach, have no clue,” he said. “The abyss is within arm’s reach.”
Before leaving for a state visit to Berlin, Netanyahu said some of the compromise’s “key elements of the proposal he suggested just perpetuate the existing situation, and don’t bring the necessary balance between the branches,” he says.
“That is the unfortunate truth.”
He noted the opposition had boycotted every effort to attend discussions to arrive at a compromise.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called on Herzog to rescind the proposal immediately.
“If he fails to, then the president will have made a sharp turn left, giving in to threats and giving a prize to violence,” Smotrich wrote on Twitter.
Responding to the criticism, Herzog said the compromise, which he called the “People’s Plan,” was the starting point for further talks.
“It is important for me to say that I am obviously hearing the reactions to my proposed framework from all sides, and I accept constructive criticism with love and great respect,” Herzog said in a statement on Thursday.
“The ‘People’s Plan’ that I proposed is intended as a basis from which we can move on, change and specify — it’s not the end of the discussion, only its beginning,” he said.
A day before, Herzog warned of bloodshed in Israel’s streets.
“I’ve heard deep-rooted hatred. I’ve heard people from all sides say that if, God forbid, there’ll be blood in the streets, it will no longer shock them,” he said.
“Civil war is a red line. I will not let it happen,” he added.
But striking a more positive note, he added that Israel sits at a “crossroads” between “a historical crisis or a defining constitutional moment.”
He called his proposal a “golden path” which ties together the broadest range of views.
Herzog’s draft proposes that Basic Laws would be approved after four readings, and not in three as is currently the case. In the first three votes, a slim majority of 61 MKs will be required, but in the fourth reading, a majority of 80 MKs will be required in most cases.
The proposal also states that the Supreme Court will not be able to review Basic Laws, and will only have the power to strike down ordinary laws. In order to do so, the Supreme Court will be required to do so with an expanded panel of no less than 11 judges, and by a majority of at least seven. Without that, the law returns to review by the Knesset. Proponents of the reform have argued that allowing the left-leaning judiciary to continue to strike down laws at will is undemocratic.
The Judicial Appointments Committee would comprise 11 members. The committee will include the Justice Minister, two other ministers chosen by the government, the Supreme Court president, two judges, three members of the Knesset – one from the coalition and two from the opposition from different factions. At least four members will be women and one from Israel’s Arab sectors.
The last point especially has been rejected by coalition members because it would mean the coalition representatives would not have a majority, going against key element of the government’s reform plan.
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