Smotrich: President is ‘unfair mediator’ in judicial reform talks

“He is 100% aligned with the left…unfortunately, he fails to be a fair mediator,” Smotrich said. He was slammed for his comments from both left and right.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called President Isaac Herzog an unfair intermediary and a leftist after he blamed the government for a breakdown in the judicial reform talks held under his auspices. According to Smotrich, it was the Opposition leaders who suspended the negotiations.

“He is 100% aligned with the left…unfortunately, he fails to be a fair mediator,” Smotrich told the Kol Barama radio station Tuesday morning.

Herzog, who had served as Labor party leader and head of the opposition, called on the “relevant parties” to “discover national responsibility and continue the fruitful and substantive discourse” that was taking place in the President’s House for the last several months. He issued the statement only after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he would press forward unilaterally in the Knesset with two of the more minor reform issues in the current session, Walla noted.

Netanyahu’s decision was made after the opposition announced that it was freezing negotiations due to the handling of one of the most important topics of the reform, that of the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee.

The president made no appeal to continue the discourse when Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Benny Gantz (National Unity) said they were breaking off the talks.

Smotrich was slammed by the left and some from the right for his comment.

“The president is working night and day to prevent the destruction of democracy, the split in the nation and the harsh blow to Israel’s economy,” Gantz said. “Government ministers would do well if they stopped the severe harm to the citizens of Israel that they are inflicting in the regime coup instead of blaming those who are doing everything to prevent it.”

(Right-wing politicians and citizens reject the “coup” charge, as the current government was voted in democratically, with some parties even campaigning on their ideas to reform the balance of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches.)

MK Yitzhak Kreuzer of Otzma Yehudit, the most right-wing faction in the Knesset, tweeted, “You can agree to the legal reform and you can oppose it. But what is certain is that the president of the country is out of the equation…. [He] is outside the political discourse. We trust the president of the country to act with integrity and faith.”

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Smotrich then blasted the idea of negotiating with the Opposition outside the framework of the legislature.

“I thought that going into the talks at the president’s house was not democratically correct; there is a Knesset,” he said. “The very fact that they took the discussion out of the parliament is an undemocratic decision.”

Bills are ordinarily refined and can even be substantially changed in committee between the three readings in the Knesset before becoming law. The Opposition refused to negotiate changes to the judicial reform plans in the relevant Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, instigating massive street protests instead that led eventually to the talks in the president’s residence.

We came with clean hands but found that there was no partner. From the beginning, the opposition did not come there except to dissolve the reform, and its goal is to continue the chaos in the streets in order to overthrow a right-wing government,” Smotrich said.