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Government and opposition begin dialogue in Israel after the brake on judicial reform


The negotiating teams of the Likud and the two main opposition parties meet at the official residence of the president, in command of the process

The president of Israel, Isaac Herzog, does not want the postponement of the judicial reform, announced on Monday by the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to become a kick forward to lower the soufflé of the protests and the crisis ends up rebounding this summer .

For this reason, he has organized the dialogue on the controversial legal change at full speed, with a first meeting late this Tuesday afternoon at his official residence in Jerusalem.

The negotiating teams of Likud, Netanyahu's party, and the two main opposition forces, Yesh Atid and National Unity, participate in the meeting.

Herzog already telephoned the prime minister and the leaders of both opposition formations -the previous head of government, Yair Lapid, and Benny Gantz, respectively- just after learning of the delay of the reform until the next period of parliamentary sessions, which begins at the end of April and ends in July.

Herzog urged them to talk "immediately" under his auspices and urged them to name negotiating teams.

Even more so when the Knesset (Parliament) goes into recess this week and from the next the country works at half throttle for almost a month, due to a chain of religious and national festivities.

The Likud, Yesh Atid and National Unity teams each have four members, mainly MPs, and do not include any of their leaders.

The Likud representation consists of people close to the prime minister and a member of Kohelet, the conservative think tank that has served as the ideological basis for the reform.

In that of National Unity is Gideon Saar, who held the Justice portfolio in the broad coalition that governed the country in 2021-2022 and previously those of the Interior and Education, before breaking with Netanyahu.

The deputy Orna Barbivai has admitted that she attends the dialogue on behalf of Yesh Atid, "with an open heart, but not with closed eyes".

“Between Netanyahu and I there is no trust.

I do not believe that man ”, she added.

Although with a certain reserved tone, both Lapid and Gantz reached out to the dialogue minutes after Netanyahu spoke on Monday.

Two of the main promoters of the reform will be absent from the process.

They are the Minister of Justice, Yariv Levin, from Likud, and Simja Rotman, the president of the parliamentary commission on Justice, who on Monday described pausing the initiative as a "mistake."

Rotman has hinted that his formation, the far-right Religious Zionism, will likely give up on doing so and leave the negotiation to Likud.

The Labor Party has yet to decide its official position, its leader, Merav Mijaeli, told military radio, recalling that the reform is still on.

Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beitenu) is championing the tougher position.

"I don't want to herald bad news, but I know Bibi," he said, referring to Netanyahu, with whom he rose to become deputy prime minister and hold the foreign and defense portfolios.

"To my friends in the opposition: do not get your hopes up, do not fall into the trap", he tweeted this morning.

Herzog intends to include in the process other parties with a parliamentary presence, representatives of civil society and "other interested parties".

For Wednesday he has invited the two Arab formations in the Knesset: Hadash-Taal and the United Arab List.

This party is the first of the Palestinian minority with Israeli citizenship that has formed a government coalition, which lost the elections in November to Netanyahu and his partners, although it would win if Israel returned to the polls today, according to two television polls broadcast on Monday.


The atmosphere before the dialogue is more of caution than optimism.

One of the best examples of the polarization in which the country is immersed is the distrust generated by the opposition that one of the main laws of the reform ―which seeks to weaken the Supreme Court and allow Parliament to overthrow some of its decisions― be approved, before Netanyahu's speech, in the Justice Commission.

In other words, technically the Knesset could vote on it at any time.

It seems very unlikely, but the opposition considers it "negotiating with a gun on the table", as several of its representatives have illustrated.

The president has achieved little in his previous negotiating efforts.

For weeks he led one without direct representatives (through academics who communicated with the Government and the opposition) that came to nothing.

And on the 15th he presented an alternative reform proposal that lasted as long as coalition members, including Netanyahu, took to reject it before someone broke ranks.

What Netanyahu announced on Monday, pressured by three months of mass protests and a growing political crisis, was not the end of the reform, but a "pause for dialogue" aimed at avoiding a "civil war."

Since morning, a general strike paralyzed part of the departures of the main airport, the ports, the electricity sector and the big banks, among others.

The strike was called off just after the announcement and the currency responded upwards on Tuesday.

The shekel, which was at its lowest level against the dollar in four years due to the crisis, has strengthened by 1.7% to reach an exchange rate (3.52) unprecedented in six weeks.

"Private Militia"

In exchange for the pause, the Minister of National Security and leader of the far-right Jewish Power party, Itamar Ben Gvir, started an important counterpart at the last minute: the creation of a new security body that will be under his command.

The National Guard was included in the government agreements, but Ben Gvir only achieved a written and signed commitment on Monday that it be brought to the next council of ministers.

The main human rights NGO, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, has called it a "private armed militia" that will "endanger human rights".

This Tuesday there have still been demonstrations, but much smaller.

One, of about 3,000 people, in Tel Aviv, and another in front of the presidential residence.

One of the spokesmen for the protest, Nadav Galon, has assured that the demonstrations will continue, with partial calls to take to the streets on Wednesday and Saturday, considering the dialogue "a pantomime led by Netanyahu."

However, the activity in the WhatsApp groups where they are disseminated has dropped significantly.

The paralysis of the reform dissolved the large protests on Monday, although thousands of supporters and detractors of that legal change continued to demonstrate at dawn.

A group of the former, including ultras from the Beitar team in Jerusalem, attacked a Palestinian taxi driver and another, a television journalist who had gone to the scene to connect live.

There are three detainees.

Anti-reform protesters were evacuated from Tel Aviv's Ayalon Highway with more force than usual.

The dismissal of the Defense Minister is still up in the air

The Israeli Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, on the 9th at the Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv.ATEF SAFADI (EFE)

Benjamin Netanyahu set the streets on fire on Sunday by announcing the dismissal of the head of Defense and also a member of Likud, Yoav Gallant, for distancing himself from the reform.

The decision is still up in the air.

A replacement has not been announced and the ministry confirms that Gallant is technically still in the role.

Netanyahu verbally informed him of his dismissal, but not in writing, which is when his last 48 hours in office would begin to count.

The reason seems to be a behind-the-scenes negotiation to continue, as a gesture of conciliation.

Benny Gantz (National Unity), in fact, expressly asked Netanyahu by phone on Sunday night.

He would be supported by 63% of Israelis (including 58% of Likud voters), according to a poll by channel 12 television.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-03-29

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