‘We Are on Brink of Civil War:’ Israel’s President Compromise Rejected by Netanyahu

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 night, saying it only perpetuates an imbalance between the government’s powers.

Addressing the nation in a prime-time address, Herzog called for a “constitutional moment” amid what he said was a “nightmare” with “civil war looming.”

“Those who think civil war is a frontier we won’t reach, they don’t have any evidence,” he said. “The abyss is at hand.”

Before leaving on an official visit to Berlin, Netanyahu said that some of the “main elements of the settlement in the proposal he proposed only perpetuate the current situation, and do not achieve the necessary balance between the branches,” he said.

“This is the unfortunate truth.”

He pointed out that the opposition boycotted every effort to attend the discussions to reach a compromise.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich Herzog demanded that the proposal be immediately rescinded.

Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu (L) receives a mandate to form a government after meeting with President Isaac Herzog (R) in Jerusalem, November 13, 2022. (Israel Government Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“If he fails to do so, the President will have taken a sharp turn to the left, giving in to threats and awarding violence,” Smotrich wrote on Twitter.

Responding to the criticism, Herzog said the settlement, which he called the “People’s Plan,” was the starting point for further talks.

“It is important for me to say that I clearly hear feedback on the proposed framework from all sides, and I accept constructive criticism with great love and respect,” Herzog He said in a statement on Thursday.

He said “The ‘People’s Plan’ I have proposed is meant as a basis upon which we can move forward, change and define – it is not the end of the discussion, only the beginning of it”.

A day earlier, Herzog had warned of bloodshed in the streets of Israel.

I heard of a deep rooted hatred. I’ve heard people on all sides say that if, God forbid, there will be blood in the streets, it won’t shock them anymore,” he said.

“Civil war is a red line. I will not let that happen,” he added.

But he added, on a more positive note, that Israel stands at a “crossroads” between “a historic crisis or a decisive constitutional moment.”

He described his proposal as a “golden path” that bridges a wide range of viewpoints.

Demonstrators raise national flags and rainbow flags during a rally against the Israeli government’s controversial judicial reform bill in Tel Aviv, March 16, 2023. (JACK GUEZ / AFP via Getty Images)

Herzog’s draft proposes approval of the Basic Laws after four readings, not three as is currently the case. In the first three votes, a narrow majority of 61 Knesset members would be needed, but in the fourth reading, a majority of 80 MKs would be needed in most cases.

The proposal also states that the Supreme Court will not be able to review the Basic Laws, and will only have the power to strike down the Ordinary Laws. In order to do so, the Supreme Court would be required to do so by an expanded panel of no less than 11 justices, and with a majority of at least seven. Without that, the law will be revisited by the Knesset. Proponents of reform have argued that allowing a left-leaning judiciary to continue to invalidate laws at will is undemocratic.

The Judicial Appointments Committee will consist of 11 members. The committee will include the justice minister, two other ministers chosen by the government, the chief justice, two judges, and three Knesset members – one from the coalition and two from the opposition from different factions. At least four members are women and one is from the Arab sectors in Israel.

The last point was particularly rejected by coalition members because it would mean that coalition representatives would not get a majority, which would contradict a key component of the government’s reform plan.

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