02/13/2023, 14.22
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Herzog seeks compromise on controversial justice system reform

In a televised speech, the Israeli president stressed the danger of “societal and constitutional collapse." He calls for mediation between the government and the opposition, asking not to force change through parliament. A majority leader rejects his proposal. Tens of thousands of people take to the streets in protest; a new rally is set for today in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Israeli President Isaac Herzog has waded into the minefield surrounding the Israeli government’s controversial justice reform plan, which is opposed by the judiciary and has pushed tens of thousands of Israelis into the streets to protest.

This comes at a time of heightened sectarian tensions (affecting Christians as well) and violence with the Palestinians, which could lead to another intifada.

In an impassioned and heartfelt televised speech Sunday evening, Herzog spoke of a country on the verge of "societal and constitutional collapse”, calling for compromise to avoid conflict and possibly bloodshed. To this end, he laid out a five-point plan.

In his address, he asked Israelis on both sides of the political divide, government supporters and critics alike, to refrain from violence.

He stressed the growing fear of attacks "against public servants and elected officials", stressing his deep concern over the reforms proposed by the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that risk undermining the "democratic foundations" of the country.

Proposals for "change" and "reform" are legitimate, he added, but they must not come at the expense of unity. Hence, he proposes a five-point plan for compromise with the opposition, urging the government not to ram through its plan in parliament.

While the opposition welcomed Herzog’s proposal, the ruling coalition government, in particular several Likud Members of the Knesset, rejected it, saying that things must move ahead quickly.

In summary, the five points outlined by the president include: a Basic Law that will regulate the justice system, preventing the Supreme Court from changing Basic Laws, changing the composition of the committee that selects judges to allow a balance between the various authorities, increasing the number of judges, achieving a broad consensus regarding the use of the so-called standard of reasonableness.

In his appeal, Herzog addressed directly the chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Laws and Justice Committee Simcha Rothman, a member of the Religious Zionist party, one of the main backers of the reform.

Rothman immediately rejected the idea of postponing the first vote in parliament today, claiming that it was an "obligation to our voters".

For their part, critics, among them top judges and ordinary citizens, continue to express their opposition. Over the weekend, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Tel Aviv.

Another mass protest march is planned for today in Jerusalem, with police deployed in riot gear, ready to prevent protesters from reaching the Knesset.

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