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President Herzog reveals his judicial reform compromise plan

President Isaac Herzog unveiled this evening (Wednesday) his proposal, which he called the ‘People’s Framework,’ for a compromise on the government’s planned judicial reforms.

  • “The abyss is within touching distance,” the President said during his announcement. “Those who think that a civil war is something that we could not reach, have no idea.”
  • “I have met with thousands of citizens, the best sons and daughters of the state. In my life, in my worst nightmares, I never thought I would hear such words, even if it is only from a very small minority of people. I heard startling rhetoric. I heard real, deep hatred. I heard people – from all the sides – say that the idea of blood in the streets no longer shocks them,” he said.

Herzog emphasized that

  • “the IDF should be out of bounds. We are at the crossroads of what could be a historical crisis or a defining constitutional moment. Substantial changes must be made with common sense. Our holy texts call on us to pursue justice and peace.”
  • “The majority of Israeli citizens want a balanced outline that will once and for all establish the relations between the governing authorities in Israel. The majority of Israeli citizens want a broad consensus. The majority of Israeli citizens want to live safe and good lives thanks to the government’s policies and actions; and also want to be protected from the power of the government.
  • “The outline that I am presenting today is a ‘golden mean,’ which brings together in a proper, decent, balanced and constructive manner, the perceptions, beliefs, and concerns of all sides. It reflects the area of agreement and the greatest common denominator. I have already said: if only one side wins – the State of Israel will lose. In this outline there is no winning side and no losing side. It is an outline that is all about the victory of the citizens of Israel. The place of legislative proceedings is in the Knesset, so it is important to emphasize that the outline I am presenting today is a proposal of principles which will be the basis for an in-depth and proper discussion,” he said.
  • “This outline strengthens the Knesset, strengthens the government, strengthens the judicial system, and above all strengthens the State of Israel. This outline protects each and every one of you – the citizens of Israel. This outline preserves the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel. This is not a political compromise on this or that clause. This is not a move for or against the initiators of the legislation or the members of the coalition. Just as there is no hidden intention here to strengthen or weaken the opponents of the legislation or the opposition. The only thing – the only thing – that that I am considering is the good of our people. The benefit of our national home. The benefit of our great love – the State of Israel.
  • “The outline responds to the important need to diversify the judicial system so that, among other things, the multiple voices of the people of Israel will feel that they are a part of it and see it as their home; And it obliges the judicial system to make necessary changes whose time has come. The proposed outline anchors a decent and balanced relationship between the branches of government, which allows each branch to fulfill its role, and to operate within the limits of its jurisdiction without exceptional interference from another branch. The outline is fully committed to the principles of the Declaration of Independence; It fortifies the independence of the judicial system; and establishes a system of human and citizens’ rights, for both men and women, including the minorities in Israel.

He said that the full details of his plan would be available on a website dedicated to the proposal, and begged for the coalition and opposition to come together to negotiate on the basis of his plan rather than dig in on their current positions.

  • “The responsibility lies with them, and it is a heavy responsibility. If they want – they will discuss it, an if they want – they will continue the all-or-nothing war,” he said of the coalition and opposition.
  • The President turned to the citizens of Israel in the conclusion of his address: “Citizens of Israel, my brothers and sisters: I believe in us, in each and every one of us. Let’s take this step. Let’s do it together.”

One aspect of the President’s proposal is changing the method for the selection of Supreme Court justices. Under the current system, the current justices have an outsized say over the selection of new justices, while Justice Minister Levin’s reforms would transfer much of that authority to the government and Knesset.

Under the ‘People’s Framework,’ the Judicial Selection Committee would be comprised of 11 members, four of whom would be from the government and coalition.

Three members of the committee would be from the judiciary, and two would be from the opposition. Seven committee members would be required to approve the selection of a new judge, ensuring that no one party, coalition, judiciary, or opposition, can exercise total control over the process.

Another aspect of the proposal is establishing the constitutional status of Basic Laws and how Basic Laws are passed.

Under the proposal, Basic Laws would require four readings in the Knesset, as opposed to the three readings required for normal legislation, and would require the support of 80 MKs during the final reading instead of a bare majority. In addition, 80 MKs would be required to amend a Basic Law.

  • A panel of 11 justices would be required to strike down a law passed by the Knesset, and a supermajority of eight justices would have to vote to strike the law down, placing a limit on the court’s power of judicial review.

On the issue of the authority of legal advisers to the governmental ministries, Herzog’s proposal would preserve the current system in which the opinion of the legal advisers is legally binding on the ministers, but the ministers would have the right to replace a legal adviser if they have multiple and sustained disagreements with them.

Herzog’s proposal would prevent the Supreme Court from striking down ministerial appointments based on the ‘reasonability standard’ the way the court struck down the appointment of Shas chairman Aryeh Deri in January.

Missing entirely from the plan is any version of the Override Clause, which would allow the Knesset to re-pass legislation struck down by the Supreme Court.

  • Previous compromise proposals had suggested a version of the Override Clause which would require a super-majority of MKs instead of a bare majority of 61.

Opponents of the judicial reforms have staged large protests for months. President Herzog has been attempting to mediate negotiations on a compromise between the coalition and opposition, but the opposition has refused to talk unless the current legislation is frozen.

The president’s proposal has already been dismissed by some members of the coalition even before it was unveiled.

Channel 12 News reported that the judicial reforms’ main architects, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, and Knesset Constitution Committee chairman MK Simcha Rothman, strongly oppose Herzog’s proposal.

  • In addition, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi tweeted: “Mr. President, the people’s framework was set exactly four months ago. We are on it.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed his flight to Germany today to hold discussions with coalition officials on the efforts to reach a compromise on the judicial reforms.

Israeli media have speculated that Netanyahu’s move may have been in response to President Herzog’s intention to unveil his proposal this evening.

Source: Arutz Sheva