Israeli President Isaac Herzog convened the first meeting on Tuesday evening meant to bridge the gaps and find a compromise on judicial reform. Herzog met with working teams representing the ruling coalition, the Yesh Atid Party and the National Unity Party for a first dialogue meeting, which was held at the President’s Residence.
The negotiating team of the Likud Party included Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs; professor Talia Einhorn of Ariel University; Aviad Bakshi, head of the legal department at the Kohelet Policy Forum; and Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer.
Yesh Atid sent Knesset members Orna Barbivai and Karine Elharrar; as well as Na’ama Schultz, an aide to opposition leader and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid. National Unity sent Knesset members Gideon Sa’ar, Chili Tropper, Orit Farkash-Hacohen and attorney Ronan Aviani.
Late Monday night — after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in a national address that he was putting a hold on the government’s reform efforts in order to “provide a real opportunity for real dialogue” — Herzog phoned Netanyahu, Lapid and National Unity Party chairman Benny Gantz and urged them to start an immediate negotiation process under his auspices to reach a compromise on judicial reform.
He stated that “we are on the path toward a dangerous collision in Israeli society. We are in the midst of a crisis that endangers the basic unity between us. Such a crisis requires us all to act responsibly.”
In response, Herzog said “stopping the legislation is the right thing. This is the time to begin a sincere, serious and responsible dialogue that will urgently calm the waters and lower the flames.”
The Israeli president said, “I call on everyone to act responsibly. Protests and demonstrations, on whichever side — yes. Violence — absolutely not! If one side wins, the country will lose. We must remain one people and one country — Jewish and democratic.”
In the phone calls on Monday, Herzog requested that each party form a negotiating team so that talks could begin.
On Monday evening, a massive demonstration in support of judicial reform took place in Jerusalem at the same time that Netanyahu announced a pause in the legislative process.
More than 100,000 people gathered in the capital, close to the Knesset and Supreme Court, said police sources, in a show of solidarity following months of left-wing-led protests against the coalition’s reform program. Reserve pilots from the Israel Defense Forces were also threatening to halt their duties if the reforms were to go through.
Earlier this month, Herzog presented what he termed the “people’s plan,” referring to a compromise reform proposal that he developed. However, Netanyahu rejected it at the time, saying it didn’t provide a solution to the problem. Herzog subsequently held a series of talks with key figures in the judicial reform initiative that failed to produce results.