Lapid: Proposed overhaul compromise a ploy by Netanyahu to stymie court

Opposition leader says he knew from the start that a ‘too good to be true’ offer would come right before PM’s trip to US

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid speaks during a conference in Tel Aviv on September 10, 2023. (Flash90)
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid speaks during a conference in Tel Aviv on September 10, 2023. (Flash90)

Opposition leader Yair Lapid said Sunday that the latest compromise proposed on the government’s judicial overhaul is a ploy intended to raise difficulties for High Court justices prior to this week’s hearing on the “reasonableness” law.

“The purpose [of the proposed compromise] is not to reach a consensus but to raise difficulties for the justices as they discuss the petitions,” Lapid said at a conference on social justice in Tel Aviv.

“I haven’t commented yet on the proposed compromise that was presented last week and not by chance,” the opposition leader added. “Already last month, I told the president’s team and my colleagues in the opposition: ‘I’m warning you ahead of time, a few days before the hearings and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s trip to the US, all of a sudden a compromise will be offered that looks too good to be true.”

Besides creating difficulties for the justices, the Yesh Atid chairman said that the compromise was also aimed to make it easier for Netanyahu to receive a meeting with US President Joe Biden at the White House.

“This past week’s U-turn proved that it would have been better had we listened to my warning. Regardless, we must make every effort to prevent the strife amongst the nation. Contrary to the prime minister and his cabinet, we have a national responsibility toward the fate of this country,” Lapid said.

Nevertheless, Lapid did support one of the pillars of the compromise – a year-and-a-half-long moratorium on all judicial legislation. “Such a freeze must be protected in a Basic Law,” he said. “In the past, the coalition rejected that offer outright, but now it’s appeared in the compromise that was presented, so it seems that in the government there are also those who understand that it’s the right thing.”

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)

Last week, President Isaac Herzog’s office revealed that he has been hosting ongoing cross-aisle talks to prevent a “constitutional crisis,” while noting that no agreements had been reached.

The purported framework of the agreement 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.

The High Court of Justice is set to debate on Tuesday several petitions against the reasonableness law, setting up a potential constitutional showdown with Netanyahu’s government, which has not committed to abide by a court decision on the matter.

Benny Gantz, head of the National Unity party, said that while he supports dialogue and compromise, Netanyahu’s plea was plainly “spin,” since Justice Minister Yariv Levin and other coalition hardliners have publicly rejected the latest Herzog formula and Netanyahu, therefore, cannot deliver sufficient coalition support for an agreement that safeguards democracy.

Benny Gantz gives a speech on September 5, 2023 responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plea for talks on the judicial overhaul. (Courtesy)

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.

The overhaul plan has faced months of mass protests alongside warnings from economic and legal figures who say it will damage the country. Opponents have organized weekly demonstrations and strikes while thousands of reserve soldiers have said they will stop performing their duties if legislation of the scheme continues.

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