Israeli President Isaac Herzog convened the first meeting on Tuesday evening, March 28, meant to bridge the gaps and find a compromise on judicial reform. Late on Monday night, Herzog had phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Lapid and National Unity Party chairman Benny Gantz and urged them to start an immediate negotiation process under his auspices to reach a compromise on judicial reform. He requested that each party form a negotiating team so that talks could begin.
The call came after Netanyahu announced in a national address that he was putting a hold on the government’s reform efforts in order to “provide a real opportunity for real dialogue.” He stated that “we are on the path toward a dangerous collision in Israeli society. We are in the midst of a crisis that endangers the basic unity between us. Such a crisis requires us all to act responsibly.”
President Calls For Unity
Herzog said, “Stopping the legislation is the right thing. This is the time to begin a sincere, serious and responsible dialogue that will urgently calm the waters and lower the flames.” The Israeli president added, “I call on everyone to act responsibly. Protests and demonstrations, on whichever side—yes. Violence—absolutely not! If one side wins, the country will lose. We must remain one people and one country—Jewish and democratic.”
On Monday evening, a massive demonstration in support of judicial reform took place in Jerusalem at the same time that Netanyahu announced a pause in the legislative process. More than 100,000 people gathered in the capital, close to the Knesset and Supreme Court, said police sources, in a show of solidarity following earlier left-wing-led protests against the coalition’s reform program. Reserve pilots from the Israel Defense Forces were also threatening to halt their duties if the reforms were to go through.
Earlier in March, Herzog had presented what he termed the “people’s plan,” referring to a compromise reform proposal that he had developed. However, Netanyahu rejected it at the time, saying it didn’t provide a solution to the problem. Herzog subsequently held talks with key figures in the judicial reform initiative that also failed to produce results.
Herzog met with the working teams representing the ruling coalition, the Yesh Atid Party and the National Unity Party for a first dialogue meeting, which was held at the president’s residence.
The negotiating team of the Likud Party included Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs; professor Talia Einhorn of Ariel University; Aviad Bakshi, head of the legal department at the Kohelet Policy Forum; and Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer.