As protests continued throughout Israel, politicians and activists exchanged verbal blows on Thursday about stopping the legislative process for the proposed judicial reforms as a precondition to negotiations mediated by President Isaac Herzog.
Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Simcha Rothman castigated opposition leader Yair Lapid’s refusal to negotiate without preconditions, saying that he is running a “BDS campaign against Israel” and that “the opposition continues to disregard the president’s requests to talk.”
Rothman said he and Justice Minister Yariv Levin called on Lapid and National Unity leader MK Benny Gantz to negotiate immediately following Herzog’s proposal on Sunday, and that any acts of goodwill by reformists had only been met with further demands.
The anti-reform movement continued to call for the cessation of legislation as a precondition for negotiations well into Thursday night. Since the president’s call, Rothman’s committee voted to send two reform bills to the Knesset plenum, which will be voted on next Monday.
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon chastised Herzog, saying he was disappointed in seeing the president appeal for compromises and half-compromises.
The Black Robes Movement condemned reports on Thursday night that Herzog appealed to the attorney-general’s office to allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be involved in the negotiations despite his conflict of interest.
Netanyahu previously asked for Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara’s opinion on the Herzog proposal, but according to Israeli media, she refused to acquiesce in his participation in negotiations due to his ongoing corruption trials. According to a conflict of interest agreement, Netanyahu is unable to engage in appointments of legal and law officials that could influence his cases.
“The protests will continue and increase,” Ya’alon said, “and I call on the Arab public, who are starting to join, to take part in the protests, because we will all be hurt in the end.”
Protest movement leaders
The leaders of the protest movement against the government’s judicial reform plans announced a national day of protest this coming Monday, during the planned Knesset vote on two bills for the reforms.
In a press conference, they called for marches and demonstrations in multiple cities, shutdowns of businesses and a demonstration in front of the Knesset on Monday while the law is being proposed.
Protests on Thursday saw hundreds rally in front of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s home, and 100 people picketing in front of the prime minister’s residence. The Crime Minister movement claimed that the police had kept them at a distance of hundreds of meters, despite previous promises.
“The police are cowering and denying our right to hold a democratic protest against those who trample on democracy,” said the movement. “These are dark days for the State of Israel and we must step up the fight so that Israel does not become Hungary. The coup d’état will encounter unprecedented civil resistance.”
Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai released a statement to his police officers on Thursday, reaffirming that protest was a democratic right that needed to be approached with fairness and restraint while also taking public safety into account.
“I fully support the decision-making of the commanders in the field, as long as they act in accordance with Israel Police procedures and according to the law,” he said.
Yonah Jeremy Bob, Ron Kampeas/JTA and Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.