Israel president urges consensus after judicial changes pass

Jerusalem –

On Tuesday, the Israeli president called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government to seek dialogue and compromise after pushing through controversial judicial reforms.

Isaac Herzog said it had been a “difficult morning” following the late-night parliamentary vote, which saw two controversial laws.

Critics say the ongoing judicial reforms will concentrate power in the hands of the Knesset, the ruling coalition of Israel’s parliament, and erode the democratic system of checks and balances. Netanyahu and his allies argue that the changes would better curb the overly powerful Supreme Court.

“Many citizens throughout Israeli society, many who voted for the coalition, fear the unity of the nation,” Herzog said at a conference hosted by the Yedios Aronos newspaper. He urged Netanyahu and his allies to allow dialogue to reach consensus on judicial reform.

Herzog’s remarks came the morning after tens of thousands of Israelis protested outside parliament ahead of the vote, the second large-scale demonstration in Jerusalem in recent weeks. Palestinians in Israel are the minority who may have the most to lose from an overhaul, given the discrimination they face at home and the 55 years of Israel’s continuous occupation of its Palestinian compatriots in the West Bank. As a result, he remained mostly a bystander.

Netanyahu and his allies pass two clauses in a package of changes that seeks to undermine the country’s Supreme Court and give more power to the ruling parliamentary coalition after a protracted debate that lasted more than seven hours after midnight. Did.

In a 63-47 vote, the Knesset curtails the Supreme Court’s powers to consider “basic laws” that have a quasi-constitutional role in Israel, which does not have a formal constitution, allowing the Supreme Court to control judicial appointments. Approved the measures. The bill will need two more rounds of deliberations in parliament before it can be passed.

A proposal is also planned to overturn Supreme Court rulings and give Congress powers to control the appointment of government counsel. Advisors are now professional civil servants, and critics say the new system will politicize government ministries.

The United States is calling for restraint, and on Tuesday the UN human rights secretary urged Israel to “pause the proposed law reforms and open them up for wider debate and reflection.”

“Such issues at the heart of the rule of law should ensure that any change enhances, rather than diminishes, the ability of the judiciary and other branches of government to protect the rights of all people in Israel. It deserves the utmost consideration to ensure,” Volker Turk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.

A survey released Tuesday by the Israel Institute for Democracy think-tank found that 66% of respondents believe the Supreme Court should have the power to override laws that are incompatible with the Basic Law, and 63% want judges to Thinking about the current system (panel) to choose. Composed of politicians, judges and lawyers – must be maintained.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the 756 respondents said there should be a compromise between opposing political parties on proposed judicial reforms.

As a largely symbolic head of state, Herzog sought to mediate dialogue between the increasingly polarized camps and called on Netanyahu and his allies to delay controversial judicial reforms.

Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, made up of ultranationalist and ultra-orthodox parties, took office in late December after the country’s fifth parliamentary election in less than four years. Netanyahu denied that the political impasse was largely due to the longtime leader’s fitness to serve as prime minister while he was on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes.


Associated Press writer Laurie Kelman contributed from Tel Aviv, Israel.

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