Negotiating teams from the coalition and opposition parties Yesh Atid and National Unity will begin "focused and rigorous discussions" today over the government-proposed judicial reform, the Office of the President announced in a statement on Sunday evening.
The discussions will also include professional advisors representing both sides, and will cover "core issues on the agenda," according to the statement.
"The Office of the President continues to do everything in its power to encourage the sides to adhere to dialogue with the aim of bringing about a broad consensus," the statement read.
The announcement came hours after the Labor Party announced on Sunday morning that its negotiation team is dropping out of talks to reach a compromise on the judicial reform, citing reports of backroom discussions being conducted without its involvement.
“Despite the grave doubts we expressed all along about the willingness of the government and the coalition to formulate broad national agreements, we chose to join the negotiating process at the President’s Residence out of deep concern, a sense of national responsibility and a desire to find agreed [upon] solutions to the approaching constitutional crisis that may change the democratic regime in Israel,” the party wrote in a letter to President Isaac Herzog.
“Despite all this, we are learning about behind-the-scenes conversations and even about agreements between the parties – far from the public eye, without our involvement – which raise concerns regarding the negotiating process and even about Israeli democracy,” the letter said. “These are not consistent with the clear positions we have presented all along regarding redlines that should not be crossed and the matters of principle on which it is not possible to compromise.”
Reports of a new proposal
It was not clear what agreements the party was referring to, but a new proposal had surfaced regarding the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee, KAN News reported Sunday. According to the proposal, none of the committee members will be politicians or judges; rather, the different branches of government will appoint representatives who will then be independent, the report said. The coalition will still have a majority of representatives, it said.
The bill concerning the Judicial Selection Committee’s makeup now needs to pass its second and third readings in the Knesset plenum. Besides giving the coalition a majority in the committee, it enables it to appoint two Supreme Court justices unilaterally per term.
While the government was damaging Israel’s economy, Moody’s, the international credit-rating agency, gave particular praise to civil society in Israel in its report on Friday in which it lowered the country’s credit rating projection from “positive” to “stable,” the Labor Party said in its letter.
Labor also criticized Minister within the Justice Ministry and Ministerial Liaison to the Knesset David Amsalem (Likud) for “scandalously” calling for the presidents of the Supreme Court, past and present, to be prosecuted.
“This is part of an unrestrained campaign of incitement against the judiciary in Israel, which they want to totally destroy,” the letter said.
“In view of these patterns of conduct, there is no point in continuing our attempt to participate in the talks held at the President’s Residence, and we are announcing our withdrawal from participating in the negotiation process,” it said. “The Labor faction will continue to fight for Israeli democracy in the Knesset, on the streets, in protests, in the media and in any other arena, together with the Israeli public. We will follow the negotiations closely, while maintaining the demand for transparency and while standing firm on the redlines of Israeli democracy.”
Open to dialogue
In response, the President’s Residence said it was “open and will continue to be open to all those who wish to be part of dialogue aimed at arriving at as broad agreements as possible.”
Several meetings have been held between the coalition’s negotiating team and those of Yesh Atid and National Unity. The Labor Party had not been invited to those meetings, a representative for Labor chairwoman Merav Michaeli said.
Labor joins Yisrael Beytenu as the second opposition party to refuse to join the negotiation efforts. Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman on Saturday reiterated his position that the talks were a “scam” intended to dissolve the protests.