Can Netanyahu’s government last without judicial reform?

“If at least part of the judicial reform doesn’t pass by the end of the [Knesset’s] summer session – what am I doing in this job?”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism), head of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committe,e told 103FM Monday that the government will not survive without passing some form of judicial reform.

“This coalition, without [passing] the repair of the judicial system – not as a threat, and not as a deadline or an ultimatum… will not manage to exist,” he said. “It won’t be because someone flexed his muscles at someone else, but because it is a most essential promise [to the voters].”

Rothman was interviewed this week after Justice Minister Yariv Levin, his fellow architect of the reform that has hotly divided the nation, reportedly said that “if at least part of the judicial reform doesn’t pass by the end of the [Knesset’s] summer session – what am I doing in this job?”

It was not the first time Rothman had issued such a warning. In an interview with Ynet last month, he said the coalition could not last without the reforms. That statement was seen by many as a veiled threat that he would leave the government as a tactic to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into moving forward with the project.

“It’s not my personal project,” Rothman told 103FM. “It’s a coalition-wide project, of 64 mandates – and even more, because as you know today there is wide agreement among Opposition members and Opposition voters, that a reform of the judicial system is necessary. So I’m optimistic that it will happen and also pessimistic about the ability to hold together a coalition without it happening.”

Considering what he called its “unparalleled importance,” Rothman also said that while he “very much hoped” that the negotiations between government and Opposition representatives under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog on all aspects of the reform would bear fruit, “if they keep staying at the point of automatic rejection of every [proposal] and attempts to blow it up as we’ve seen in the last 24 hours, 48 hours, then we have to proceed by ourselves.”

“We all want to [have the reform] by agreement,” he said. “We have invested many hours of effort to it. But if the Opposition thinks it has veto power … that’s not going to happen.”

When the interviewer stated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was no longer supportive, giving as an example that he had told the S&P credit rating agency that he had “stopped” the reform, Rothman firmly disagreed. Netanyahu was just saying that it would not be passed in its original form, which was true even now, he said, as changes were already made by his committee after one part of the reform passed its first reading in the Knesset.

Read  Netanyahu: Israel allows maximum freedom of movement, Palestinian terrorists take advantage

He also suggested that the term “stopped” was used because the prime minister had frozen the process in order to negotiate with the Opposition. This was a political ploy he and his party had disagreed with, he noted, but if it brings about a reform acceptable to all, then “the State of Israel played it very well.”

What part of the reform to advance first if negotiations fail will be a matter of discussion between the party heads in the coalition, he said, while noting that on a technical level, the issue that is “most ready” is the revision of the Judicial Selection Committee.

This is also perhaps the most controversial element of the reform, as the bill as it currently stands would erase the veto that sitting justices have over the selection of their successors, with a majority of those on the committee becoming elected representatives of the public. The Opposition claims that this change would “destroy democracy” in Israel.