Gantz dismisses coalition’s offer to talk once law passes on choosing judges, pleads with PM to ‘stop,’ prevent civil war

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

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)

MK Benny Gantz, the opposition’s most bullish figure on reaching a negotiated compromise on changes to be made to the judiciary, says that he rejects the coalition’s latest proposal for selecting judges as well as its offer to negotiate further judicial changes once that central element of the overhaul becomes law.

Speaking at the outset of his National Unity’s Knesset faction meeting, Gantz says that he and his party “unequivocally reject the coalition’s proposal.”

“What’s being offered is not a unilateral compromise. It’s a unilateral disengagement from democracy and Israel’s values.”

Gantz renews his call to the coalition to “halt” its entire legislative package and to “enter into negotiations based on the president’s framework,” a separate reform proposal that the coalition swiftly rejected last week. Then we can discuss “an overall formula, rather than the [coalition’s] phased plan for a revolution in the way Israel is governed.”

The centrist leader says that his party will not engage in talks during the Knesset’s upcoming April recess if the coalition enacts before the recess, as it insists it will, legislation that gives the political majority extensive control over the appointment of justices.

“Saying that choosing judges politically will increase confidence in the judicial system is divorced from reality,” he says, countering the coalition’s argument that giving politicians more or full control over selecting judges will shore up an eroding sense of trust in the institution.

“I call on every decent jurist to withdraw his candidacy for the position of Supreme Court judge if the legislation passes, and not to agree to be appointed with a political mark on his forehead and his rulings,” Gantz adds.

Gantz says the politicization of the judiciary marks the first stage of the coalition’s “salami” plan to destroy Israeli democracy.

“I confess that I dread to think what will happen on Remembrance Day” next month for IDF soldiers, he says. “Will there be families who tell themselves that the sacrifice was not worth the price?”

“I almost plead with Netanyahu to stop,” he says. “We’ll mark our 75th anniversary amid a terrible rift… We must stop the disaster. We owe it to all of those in the history of Zionism, right and left, Orthodox and secular, Holocaust survivors… heroes [of Israel’s wars]… bereaved families who lost what is most precious for the state.”

He says Israel must ensure a Jewish and democratic country for its children and grandchildren. “We have to stop the civil war,” he says. “If you don’t try, the public will not forgive you,” he tells Netanyahu and the coalition.

“Only with a halt and broad agreement on judicial reform will the people of Israel win,” he concludes.

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