The National Unity party will support a bill regarding the reasonableness standard if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agrees to drop the current version and reopen negotiations at the President’s Residence over a final version, party chairman MK Benny Gantz said in a press conference on Wednesday.
The statement marked a step away from Gantz’s previous demand that the entire judicial reform pass as one package. The National Unity chairman insisted, however, that “agreement be met with agreement” – and that if the sides come to an agreement on a new version for the reasonableness standard bill, Netanyahu promised publicly alongside the president that no other reform bills will pass independently, and will only pass as part of a general package.
Gantz also demanded that a new version of the bill must “not open a window to corruption and maintain the principles of democracy.” He did not give any other indication as to what that version would include.
He added that the prime minister and "all of the responsible members of the house" had a "national duty" to accept the offer. Turning to the "majority of the nation that opposes the overhaul and is wary of talks," Gantz said that he, too, did not have faith in Netanyahu, but that "the State of Israel is at stake."
“If we arrive at an agreement and he cheats – he will pay the price and bring about protests the likes of which have never been seen,” Gantz concluded.
According to a briefing by an official in National Unity, Gantz’s proposal is meant to enable the coalition to push through a bill it views as important – while taking into account that the prime minister may “cheat.” If he does so, Gantz assumes that the public will judge him and bring about his replacement quickly. On the other hand, outright refusal of Gantz’s proposal would prove the prime minister’s unwillingness to compromise, and the protest movement will receive a “big boost,” including from the right-wing camp that opposes one-sided legislation.
Labor head calls Gantz's speech a 'critical mistake'
The National Unity chairman was immediately criticized by fellow opposition party leader Labor chair MK Merav Michaeli.
“We must not hold any talks with Netanyahu about the coup laws. This is a critical mistake that has harmed and still harms the protest and mortally harms our democracy. I call on Benny Gantz to inform Netanyahu that if the law to cancel the reasonableness standard passes, the door to negotiations will be definitively slammed shut,” Michaeli said.
“Netanyahu already lied to the opposition, and he lied to the US president that the legislation would pass by consensus. We must not believe him again and give him credit that he will use to advance the legislative blitz, weaken the protest and destroy Israeli democracy,” Michaeli concluded.
Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid did not immediately respond to Gantz’s statement.
The “Kaplan Force” protest umbrella group said, “It is time that Gantz understood that Netanyahu is the liar of all liars who wants to turn Israel into a dangerous dictatorship. There will be no compromise over a half-democracy, and we will not permit damage to democracy in any way nor a compromise whose essence is to initiate a dictatorship piece by piece.”
“Sources” close to National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, which usually means the minister himself, said that “any compromise on the reasonableness issue is a surrender to refusals [of reserve military duty], to anarchy, to Ehud Barak and Yair Golan, to the continuation of insubordination. The right-wing government does not have a mandate to surrender to extortion.”
The Likud Party rejected Gantz's statement as a "dictate."
"Instead of idle exercises, Gantz must demand that his fellow members of the opposition stand this evening resolutely against the service refusal that endangers the security of all Israeli citizens," said the Likud, inviting Gantz to come to the Prime Minister's Office if he actually wants a compromise.