Think tank behind Israel’s legal overhaul calls for urgent compromise

The Kohelet Policy forum has stressed the need to find 'broad consensus'

Israelis protest outside the Jerusalem offices of the Kohelet Policy Forum. AP
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The right-wing think tank whose ideology inspired the hugely divisive legal overhaul rapidly being pushed through Israel’s parliament has called on the government to find a compromise, as mass protests continue amid widespread public opposition.

The Kohelet Policy Forum said reform was necessary to address “an imbalance that has caused a situation whereby government does not function as it should”, but that “there is great importance in achieving broad consensus for the necessary changes”.

It also praised the conciliatory efforts of President Isaac Herzog, who has been issuing rare and increasingly direct calls for calm. The President is expected to release a compromise proposal in the coming days, which he has formulated with a panel of academic and legal experts, to rein in what he has called an “oppressive” overhaul that is leading the country to “disaster”.

Mass protests have taken place in Israel since the new government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to power. For 10 consecutive weeks, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have turned out across the country to protest against the measures, with organisers estimating that last week’s demonstration was the largest in Israeli history, involving about 500,000 people.

In recent weeks, police have used increasingly heavy-handed methods to control crowds, such as water cannons and stun grenades, while demonstrators have blocked key infrastructure, including motorways and ports.

On Wednesday, protesters are seeking to block roads leading into the country’s main airport in a bid to stop Mr Netanyahu travelling to Germany. It follows similar action last week before his trip to Italy.

Last week demonstrators also targeted the Jerusalem offices of the think tank, blocking access with sandbags and barbed wire.

The forum criticised the government’s “stupid” centrepiece idea, in the words of the founding chairman, to create an override clause that would allow parliament to strike down High Court challenges to proposed government laws, which critics say would effectively render the institution’s rulings meaningless.

Earlier in the week, parliament passed the first reading of the bill that would allow government to override court challenges.

The leader of the Yirsael Beytenu party, Avigdor Liberman, said it was “another step by this insane government that is leading to a deep rift in the nation of Israel”.

Updated: March 15, 2023, 9:23 AM