Israel's President Addresses Nation on Netanyahu's Plan

Herzog appeals for delaying judiciary changes to allow for negotiations
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 12, 2023 2:35 PM CST
Israel's President Urges Netanyahu Delay Legal Changes
President Isaac Herzog, shown last month, addresses Israel on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

Israel's president on Sunday appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay a contentious plan to overhaul the country's judicial system and instead seek a compromise with his political opponents. President Isaac Herzog issued the appeal in a prime-time nationwide address a day before Netanyahu's coalition is to take its first steps toward implementing the plan in parliament. The proposal has triggered mass demonstrations and opposition from wide swaths of Israeli society. Even President Biden has offered veiled criticism, saying Sunday that Israel's democracy is built on consensus and an independent judiciary, the AP reports.

"I feel, we all feel, that we are in a moment before a collision, even a violent collision, a barrel of explosives before a blast," Herzog told the nation. His job is largely ceremonial. But the president is meant to serve as a moral compass and unifying force in the deeply divided country. There was no immediate response from Netanyahu. The prime minister and his supporters say the changes are needed to rein in a judiciary that wields too much power. Opponents say the plan, which would weaken Israel's Supreme Court, could damage the country's fragile system of democratic checks and balances. They maintain Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, is motivated by a personal grudge against the legal system. Netanyahu has said he is a victim of a witch hunt.

"They want to destroy the system because the system wasn't nice to them," said Eliad Shraga, chairman of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel. "This is a hostile takeover by a bunch of crooks." Shraga's movement plans a mass demonstration outside parliament on Monday, when Netanyahu's coalition is expected to introduce the first legislation for its overhaul. Herzog urged Netanyahu to put off Monday's vote and begin dialogue with his opponents. Saying both sides have valid points, he proposed a five-point plan as a basis for dialogue and offered to assist with negotiations. "Any way you choose. Any time you choose, so long that we move on to a constructive and sustainable discourse and abandon the deceiving, insulting, and dismissive discourse," Herzog said.

(Read more Benjamin Netanyahu stories.)

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