Herzog’s office says overhaul compromise talks set to resume on Monday

The negotiations between the government and the opposition which aim to affect the legislation related to the controversial judicial reform of the coalition government are to start on Monday, the office of the President Isaac Herzog said.

The talks will be held at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem between working teams from the coalition government, and the Yesh Atid and National Unity parties of the opposition. The meeting will begin at 11 am, the President’s office said on Sunday.

Herzog began hosting the talks last week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to temporarily halt the government’s push to throw out the judicial system following widespread protests. Public laughter peaked after Netanyahu rebuked his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, on the minister’s warning about the security implications of the coalition’s proposals.

Herzog has long pleaded for a compromise, and called on the sides to enter the talks in good faith, but the negotiations are widely expected to fail.

Protest leaders and some in the opposition have said they believe the government still intends to pass the full judicial package and are only holding talks to ease opposition to the plan. The opposition and its supporters are also deeply distrustful of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has broken important political promises in the past.

It is said that some of the negotiators themselves believe that the talks are dead on arrival, because during the early discussions, the coalition government insisted that the Judicial Selection Committee lead it, which is a non-starter for the opposition.

Those in the Coalition Government have also said that the legislation will go ahead as planned when the Knesset begins its summer session, fueling claims that the talks were being used as a fig leaf.

“As Prime Minister Netanyahu said, the amendment has only been put on hold and there is a very clear date for the next session. Right after Independence Day, we will continue with the legislation,” Transport Minister Miri Regev of Likud said on Sunday.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin said Wednesday that he will resume efforts to pass the hard-right coalition’s judicial reform after the Knesset’s Passover recess.

President Isaac Herzog will host delegations from Likud, Yesh Atid and the National Unity for judicial negotiations at his residence in Jerusalem, on March 28, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The two sides met for negotiations at the Presidential Palace in Jerusalem for about an hour and a half on Friday.

Herzog urged the coalition and the opposition to give the negotiations a chance to succeed, despite the lack of trust and anxiety between the two sides.

“I know the walls of doubt are high. I know, unfortunately, that there is hostility and mistrust,” he said in a statement. “But it is important that we take a deep breath, look at reality and give the negotiation process a real chance. We all love our country.”

Around two dozen negotiators are participating in the talks, with a team of Likud representatives serving on behalf of the coalition government and opposition parties Yesh Atid, National Unity, Labor and Ra’am sent their own negotiating teams. Members of the mainly Arab Hadash-Ta’al alliance met with Herzog and told him they have “no confidence” in Netanyahu’s announced truce, citing “past experience.”

Israel protests plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to reform the judicial system, in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

In its original form, the judicial reform legislation aims to weaken the court’s ability to serve as a check on parliament, as well as give the government control over the appointment of judges.

Critics say the plans will politicize the court, remove key checks on government power and seriously damage Israel’s democratic character. Proponents of the measures say they will stay with judges who they argue are overstepping their bounds.

The attorney general has warned that the coalition’s current legislative package would give the government almost unlimited power, without providing any institutional protections for individual rights or Israel’s democratic character.

There have been protests against the plans for 13 weeks, including a mass demonstration on Saturday, after Netanyahu announced a pause on the legislation.

Other government policies, including Netanyahu’s approval of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s own national guard unit, further opened the door to unrest. It is widely seen that Netanyahu approved the national guard last week in exchange for Ben Gvir supporting the legislative break.

Polls have repeatedly shown that the government’s legislation in its current form is unpopular with the public.

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