Negotiators believe overhaul compromise talks are dead on arrival — report


Negotiations aimed at reaching a compromise on the government’s controversial judicial reform legislation are already dead in the water, senior officials involved in the talks said on Friday.

President Isaac Herzog began hosting the talks this week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed on Monday to temporarily halt government pressure to throw out the judicial system following widespread protests, which culminated after his defense minister released which warned of the security implications of the coalition’s proposals. .

During the early negotiations, the coalition insisted that it would be controlled by the Judicial Selection Committee, a non-starter for the opposition, which essentially ended the chances for negotiations before the talks got off the ground, said officials involved in the process. Channel 12.

The composition of the Judicial Selection Committee — which currently shares power between politicians and judges to decide on new judicial appointments, including to the Supreme Court — is one of the most controversial parts of the reform.

The coalition is almost done legislating a bill that would heavily politicize the committee and give the government control over most judicial appointments.

One of the suggestions that has come up in the discussions is that the coalition government should change the composition of the committee and that it should automatically change one judge. The opposition shot down the idea, saying the coalition could then choose its own Supreme Court president and use that position to appoint other judges, Channel 12 reported.

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

In this handout photo, President Isaac Herzog meets with Labor party representatives at the Presidential Palace in Jerusalem, March 29, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

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 there is hostility and mistrust, unfortunately,” Herzog 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.”

The atmosphere has already received evidence, with members of the coalition government on Thursday railing against the opposition National Unity MK Chili Tropper after he insisted in media interviews that the government would not be given the exclusive right to appoint judges to the supreme court .

As a result Justice Minister Yariv Levin accused him of trying to “blow up the talks and set the country on fire”.

The two spoke on the phone later and agreed to reduce the infection despite their disagreements. Levin and Tropper said after they spoke that while they disagreed on the issues, they have “mended fences” personally.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on March 27, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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.”

Other opposition representatives have expressed similar complaints about Netanyahu and said they will continue to support the anti-reform protests while still being prepared to give negotiations a chance.

In a video statement on Friday, Netanyahu said he supports the negotiations.

“I think we need to try to find a broad national consensus, and if there is goodwill on the other side, we can succeed,” he said.

He also praised the thousands of right-wingers who took to the streets twice in the past week for protests in support of the overhaul. Hundreds of protesters were filmed chanting racist anti-Arab slogans, and some attacked passers-by and journalists.

A protester attends a rally in support of the government’s proposed judicial reform, in Jerusalem on March 27, 2023. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Also on Friday, hundreds of anti-reform demonstrators picketed outside the homes of Levin, Economy Minister Nir Barkat, Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter and MK David Bitan – all Likud – trying to put further pressure on them.

More than a hundred people also gathered outside the house of the chairman of the National Unity Benny Gantz, who was the most vocal opposition lawmaker in favor of a compromise with the coalition government. The protesters urged him not to do so, chanting slogans such as, “you have no mandate to compromise democracy.”

Thousands also protested the renovation of Ben Gurion Airport, holding signs reading, “welcome to the dictatorship.”

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