President Isaac Herzog speaks forcefully and emotionally about the division tearing through the nation in recent weeks over the government’s judicial overhaul plans.
“I cannot watch my nation be ripped apart before my eyes,” he says. “What is happening is a tragedy.”
Herzog says he hears the cries of people begging him to step in and broker a deal, and says he will “pay any price to find a solution” but that “it has to happen now.” The president says he has been meeting over the past 10 weeks, “even with those who don’t agree with me, even those who won’t admit to [meeting me], even those who are afraid to take responsibility.”
Herzog says the public should not believe any reports about a compromise deal unless they come directly from him.
“I have succeeded in greatly narrowing the gaps” between the two sides, he says. “There is agreement on most topics — not on everything, but on the vast majority.”
“Certainly,” the president says, enough has been agreed on so far “to abandon the legislation currently being advanced, and to bring instead, to the discussions at the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, a different, agreed framework.”
The basis exists, he says, “for a rapid summation, in which the only winners are the State of Israel and its citizens.”
“The package of legislation being advanced in committee now must disappear from the world, and fast,” he urges. “It is mistaken. It is crushing. It undoes our democratic principles and therefore it must immediately be replaced by a different, agreed framework.”
Herzog specifies the supreme values that must be safeguarded: “Our democracy is a supreme value. An independent, strong, judiciary is a supreme value. The preservation of human rights, for men and women alike, with a stress on minorities and the special, rich Israeli mosaic, are a supreme value. Yes, a diverse court system so that it is a home for all citizens of the state, is also a supreme value. And a healthy, stable and clear relationship between the branches of government is also a supreme value.”
Says the president: “This is a possible formula. This is a formula within our grasp.”
“You don’t destroy the [national] home over a small gap, however critical,” he says.
Herzog says opposition and coalition lawmakers must put their egos aside immediately and work together.
“To the leaders of the state, to the coalition and the government at its head, I say, we are at the point of no return. It is a moment of to be or not to be — to choose agreement and to achieve a foundational constitutional moment, that will enable us to thrive and grow for years and generations to come, or to slide into a constitutional, security, social and economic abyss.”
“If you choose to continue down the path you’ve walked so far, the chaos will be on you. History will judge you. Take responsibility, now,” he concludes.