Gantz says he’s committed to holding ‘good faith’ talks with coalition on overhaul

National Unity leader says both sides must draw closer and ‘find creative solutions’ to resolve tensions over government’s sweeping judiciary-changing proposals

Leader of the National Unity Party MK Benny Gantz speaks during a faction meeting, at the Knesset, March 20, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
Leader of the National Unity Party MK Benny Gantz speaks during a faction meeting, at the Knesset, March 20, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

National Unity leader MK Benny Gantz on Sunday penned a letter to coalition members urging them to pause the judicial overhaul legislation until after Passover and several national holidays next month, to allow for negotiations toward a compromise that will have broad public buy-in.

“I pledge, during this period, to enter negotiations in good faith and eagerness on all the issues, with the goal of reaching agreements that will safeguard democratic principles while bringing improvements and changes,” the former defense minister wrote.

Gantz noted that to hammer out a deal, “both sides will be required to come toward each other and find creative solutions.”

“I believe that the majority of Israeli citizens, at least 80%, agree on 80% of the issues,” he said.

“Based on the broad agreement that exists in the public, we must act as the people’s elected representatives, and bring about an agreed-upon reform outline that will improve the State of Israel, strengthen the separation of powers, increase governance, and maintain the independence of the judicial system,” Gantz added.

The letter cited Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s call on Saturday night for a pause on legislating the radical proposals for shaking up the judicial system until after the end of the holidays in late April.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned from a trip to London on Sunday morning, has yet to comment publicly on Gallant’s statement but is thought to be mulling firing him or threatening to do so if he does not line up behind the government.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, left, speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a vote in the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, February 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Amid massive protests bringing hundreds of thousands of people into the streets, Netanyahu said in a speech Thursday night that he would soften parts of the planned shakeup going forward.

But he also said the Knesset would vote in the coming days on a bill to put key Supreme Court appointments, including its presidency, directly in coalition control. It is not yet clear when the vote will be held, though Tuesday has been mentioned as a potential target.

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee convened Sunday morning to continue the process of preparing and approving the bill for its second and third (final) Knesset readings.

Opponents of the overhaul have drawn a line in the sand on the appointments bill, saying it will politicize the court, remove key checks on governmental power and cause grievous harm to Israel’s democratic character.

Protest leaders on Friday announced an unprecedented nationwide “week of paralysis” aimed at upending daily life in the country, including mass protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

There have been weekly mass protests for nearly three months against the planned legislation, and a rising wave of objections by top public figures including the president, jurists, business leaders, and more.

President Isaac Herzog has pleaded with the government to abandon its “oppressive” judicial overhaul and replace it with a framework for consensual reform. But the sides have not entered any direct talks.

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