Netanyahu rejects President Herzog's compromise offer on judicial plan

The Prime Minister's plan for the judiciary has sparked some of the largest protests in Israel's history

Israeli President Isaac Herzog presented alternative changes to the judiciary in response to the planned overhaul by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government. AP
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a compromise proposal on judicial reforms suggested by Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

Mr Herzog has repeatedly warned that the government’s proposals to sweep away an independent committee that selects the country’s most powerful judges will create “a powder keg", in Israel.

Earlier this month, he said he was confident a deal could be reached on new reforms.

On Wednesday, he said compromise was necessary “to avoid civil war".

Mr Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the judiciary has sparked what some say are the largest protests in Israel’s history, as well as letters of protest from serving members of the military.

Mr Netanyahu has pushed for stronger control of how judges are selected, leading critics to accuse him of trying to stage a power-grab.

Last month, US President Joe Biden issued a veiled warning to Mr Netanyahu, praising Israeli democracy but saying that the judiciary must remain independent.

“Building consensus for fundamental changes is really important to ensure that the people buy into them so they can be sustained,” Mr Biden said.

"Key sections of the outline he presented only perpetuate the existing situation and do not bring the required balance to the Israeli authorities," Mr Netanyahu wrote on Twitter. "This is the unfortunate truth."

The drive by Mr Netanyahu's hard-right government to enact sweeping changes to Israel's courts has sparked domestic uproar and alarm among the country's Western allies. If the initial proposal passed, it would mean greater government sway in selecting judges and limit the power of the Supreme Court to strike down legislation.

One major point of contention in the planned overhaul is an amendment to the way in which judges are selected.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin has said the coalition's proposed measures would change the way judges are appointed by giving the Knesset more oversight and the government more power on the committee which selects them.

Mr Herzog's plan would see the selection committee include three ministers, the president of the high court, two judges and two civil servants who will be agreed upon by both the President of the supreme court and the justice minister.

The President warned on Wednesday that Israel was at a turning point and stressed he had been involved in mediation efforts and speaking with "thousands of people" for weeks.

"Most Israelis want a plan that will bring both justice and peace," he said.

The government's secretary Yossi Fuchs confirmed on Twitter that the coalition did not support the President's plan.

"The President's plan is one-sided of the President and has not been agreed upon by any member of the coalition," Mr Fuchs said.

Updated: March 24, 2023, 5:39 AM