Herzog calls for dialogue, fears ‘internal struggle that could end us’

“We need to know how to manage the dispute” over judicial reform, the president said. “We are not succeeding even to argue.” 

By TPS and World Israel News

President Isaac Herzog warned on Tuesday that national divisions over a controversial judicial reform plan are like a “barrel of explosives on the verge of exploding.”

Addressing an educational conference in Tel Aviv, Herzog said, “The lack of dialogue is tearing us apart from the inside, and I tell you clearly: this barrel of explosives is on the verge of exploding. This is an emergency, and the responsibility lies on us.”

The new government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently unveiled plans to reform Israel’s judicial system. The proposals include a controversial “judicial override” clause, a process that would allow the Knesset to enact certain laws even if the High Court of Justice rules them unconstitutional.

Supporters of the reforms, presented by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, say they want to end years of judicial overreach, while opponents – including tens of thousands of Israelis participating in mass protests over the last three weeks – describe the proposals as a threat to democracy.

Lapid: President listening to my proposal

“The president continues his ceaseless efforts with all relevant actors in a bid to create a wide-ranging respectful dialogue in the hope of reaching a broad understanding,” Herzog’s office said Monday in a statement.

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Opposition leader Yair Lapid said Monday that the president was considering his suggestion that a presidential panel be formulated to discuss a “more balanced” plan.

In his conference address, however, Herzog made no mention of Lapid’s proposal.

“I observe Israeli society, the citizens, and the political and public system. I see the camps prepared and ready along the entire front for an all-out confrontation over the image of the State of Israel, and I am anxious that we are on the brink of an internal struggle that could end us,” Herzog told the gathering.

“During the reigns of the House of David and the Hasmoneans, Jewish states were established in the land of Israel, and twice they collapsed before reaching their 80th anniversary.”

Looking ahead to the future, Herzog said, “Israel should reach its 80th year when it is more united and less divided.” The state will be celebrating its 75th year of independence in April.

“We need to know how to manage the dispute, whether it is between the government authorities. We are not succeeding even to argue. The responsibility placed on us is clear – to listen to the other’s wishes and no less important – to make our voice heard.”

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Herzog described the reforms as “dramatic.”

“My firm position, which I have already expressed, is that the foundations of Israeli democracy – including the legal system, and rights and the freedoms of man and citizen – they are sacred; and we must guard them – and the values ​​of the Declaration of Independence – with every vigilance.”

“It is permissible and appropriate to criticize each of the authorities, and it is important to understand the depth of the frustration, anger and pain that underlie the criticism. It is legitimate to have a practical discussion about the boundaries of the sector and the relationship between the authorities – just like what happens in many democracies in the world,” the president stressed.

“But by talking. By listening. Without dismantling our foundations, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, without undermining the infrastructure we built with so much effort.”

‘No room for compromise’

Lapid was criticized by other opponents of the coalition’s planned reforms.

“Making offers to Netanyahu, be it directly or indirectly through a mediator, is caving in,” Labor party leader Merav Michaeli said.

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman said that “There is no room for compromise on the issue,” stated Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman.

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