Yesh Atid source says party is not taking part in talks

Herzog says indirect overhaul talks have been renewed, as reports fly about new deal

Source in PM’s office denies any agreement has been reached to ‘soften’ reasonableness law and freeze bills, while reports say Netanyahu seeks deal before he meets Biden this month

President Isaac Herzog speaks during a ceremony at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on July 17, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)
President Isaac Herzog speaks during a ceremony at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on July 17, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

President Isaac Herzog’s office revealed Monday that he is hosting ongoing cross-aisle talks to prevent a “constitutional crisis,” but noted that no agreements have been reached so far.

An upcoming High Court hearing on the legality of the government’s recently passed “reasonableness” law has sown worry regarding the potential of such a crisis, in the event that the country’s top court strikes down legislation passed by the Knesset to curb the court’s own powers.

A statement from the President’s Office said that Herzog has been “making a special effort in order to prevent a constitutional crisis, and to bring about a solution that will preserve democracy and unity among the Israeli people.”

Herzog hosted months of compromise talks between coalition and opposition figures earlier this year, which were indefinitely halted in June, due to a fight over electing MKs to the Judicial Selection Committee.

His office said Monday that as part of his ongoing efforts, “the president has been holding talks with coalition and opposition leaders with the goal of bringing about dialogue that will lead to broad agreements.” However, the statement added, “no agreements have been reached,” and Herzog will be continuing such efforts.

According to the Walla news site, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is urging Herzog to publicize the terms of a proposal to freeze the upcoming judicial overhaul legislation — even without any agreement from the opposition.

President Isaac Herzog presents Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu with the mandate to form a government at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on November 13, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Netanyahu is reportedly hoping to make some progress on reaching a deal before he departs for the United States later this month — where he is expected to meet US President Joe Biden — and before upcoming High Court hearings on the reasonableness law and on Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s refusal to convene the Judicial Selection Committee.

A purported framework agreement reported by Channel 12 news on Monday would see the government advance a “softer” version of the recently passed law voiding the reasonableness standard for cabinet and ministerial decisions; an 18-month freeze on efforts to reshape the Judicial Selection Committee; and a requirement of seven out of nine members of the Judicial Selection Committee for all appointments, including the Supreme Court president.

A source in the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed to The Times of Israel that there they were aware of ongoing contacts, but denied that any deal had been reached. The Likud party denied that it had agreed to the terms put forth on Channel 12.

According to the Ynet news site, National Unity party leader Benny Gantz has refused to take part in direct talks with the coalition over the issue, but has been holding conversations with Herzog in recent days.

The news site quoted a source in Yesh Atid saying that the opposition party had not been involved in any such talks: “Also, last time the President’s Residence said that the deal was agreed upon and then Netanyahu made a u-turn.”

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

MK Avigdor Liberman, head of the opposition Yisrael Beytenu party, said that, while he appreciated Herzog’s efforts, “Netanyahu is once again deceiving everybody and attempting to buy time and legitimacy.” Liberman called on his fellow opposition figures to “not fall into this trap again.”

Labor MK Naama Lazimi said she “does not understand how we could even think about a compromise with someone who abandoned everything… this dangerous government needs to be toppled, not saved.”

Meanwhile National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, a member of the coalition, posted on X that his party “will vote against any surrender which comes up for a vote.”

The Religious Zionism party, a strong backer of the judicial overhaul, said in a statement that it remains “committed to changes in the judicial system in order to preserve a Jewish and democratic Israel.” The party said it is in favor of compromise, but “the surrender of the majority to the extreme minority which is prepared to burn down the club because it lose the election — is not on the agenda.”

Earlier Monday afternoon, Gantz said at a Jewish People Policy Institute conference hosted in Jerusalem that “I am not ready to compromise on anything, I am ready to reach agreements. Not willing to compromise on legal independence — but willing to reach agreements on certain details such as the minimum majority for Basic Laws.”

In a statement, protest leaders said that opposition politicians “do not have a mandate for a bad compromise on democracy.”

The activists stated that “the talks will only achieve one thing: saving Netanyahu, legitimizing his destructive government, and promoting his vision for a dictatorship under the cover of ‘agreements.’ The notion of agreeing on one or two laws while leaving aside the others will end with Israel becoming a Middle East version of Hungary, Turkey and Poland.”

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