Israeli politicians reject rumours of judicial overhaul compromise

A report from an Israeli broadcaster said the government and opposition had reached a deal on bitterly contested plans for judicial reform

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced fierce opposition over his plans to radically limit the power of the judiciary. AP
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Israel’s internal battle over government plans for controversial judicial reform was thrown into confusion on Tuesday morning amid reports that a compromise deal had been struck between the government and opposition.

Politicians from both sides on Monday evening quickly rejected a report by Israeli outlet Channel 12 that a deal had been reached, which would mark a major success for President Isaac Herzog, who has conducted months of compromise talks.

The flurry of denials is the latest sign that Israel’s political crisis over the reforms shows no signs of abating.

Plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing in Israeli history, to drastically limit the power of the judiciary have sparked the country's largest protest movement, bringing out tens of thousands of demonstrators to Israel’s streets on a weekly basis.

On Monday, Mr Herzog said he would continue talks between government and opposition parties to avoid a “constitutional crisis”. He had previously warned that the political divisions could lead to “civil war” in Israel.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, one of the staunchest advocates of the reforms, said on Israeli radio that he maintains the full support of Mr Netanyahu, despite rumours of a compromise.

“There is no change from the prime minister regarding the reform, contrary to all the reports,” he said.

Soon after Mr Levin’s interview, Mr Herzog called on both sides to come together.

“We are just before Rosh Hashanah, before the High Holidays, and for nine months we have been in a deep crisis … I call on the leaders to show responsibility” he said.

In July, the government succeeded in passing a first part of the reform package, which takes away the power of courts to strike down government legislation on the basis that lawmakers have proposed something that is not “reasonable”.

At the time, opposition leader Yair Lapid described the move as a “complete breaking of the rules of the game”.

Despite passing some of the reforms, tensions have emerged in recent months within the government, as backers of the full package warn that any attempt to moderate the proposals would lead to them toppling the government.

Some in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition are thought to be pursuing a watered-down programme as Israel reels from the effects of its huge divisions.

In June, he told The Wall Street Journal that he would drop an “override clause”, one of the most controversial aspects of the reform package that would allow parliament to overrule court decisions by a simple majority.

Updated: September 05, 2023, 1:55 PM