President Isaac Herzog's long-awaited "People's Outline" to end the crisis over the government's judicial reform appeared to be dead out of the gate, as the heads of the coalition parties put out a joint statement calling it "one-sided, biased and unacceptable."
However, three points suggest that the president's proposal may still bear fruit.
Three points for hope
First, note Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's response to the proposal.
After blaming the opposition for refusing to enter talks, the prime minister, on the tarmac on his way to Berlin, said, "The things that the president presented were not accepted by representatives of the coalition. Central clauses in the proposal that he presented only perpetuate the current situation, and do not bring the necessary balance to the branches [of government] in Israel. That is the unfortunate truth."
Curiously, the prime minister said that "representatives of the coalition," not himself, had rejected the plan. In addition, note that Netanyahu opposed "central clauses" – but not the plan as a whole.
Indeed, according to a number of reports throughout Wednesday afternoon, Netanyahu at first accepted the plan as a basis for discussion, but backtracked after opposition from the reform's main architects, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Knesset Constitution Committee chair MK Simcha Rothman.
President Herzog himself alluded to this. "I know that as soon as I finish my remarks, if not earlier, opponents will rise up on all sides. I also know that some will flee from responsibility and that there will be those who have already agreed and will suddenly deny any connection or will try to backtrack," he said.
Second, note the responses of a not-insignificant number of senior Likud MKs and ministers who did not reject the plan. MKs Danny Danon and David Bitan, for example, issued criticism similar to Netanyahu's, but said that despite the failure of the president's proposal, the coalition itself must soften the reform. Others simply remained silent – including ministers Yisrael Katz, Avi Dichter, Nir Barkat, Yoav Gallant and Gila Gamliel, and MK Yuli Edelstein.
Many of the list above have in general stayed silent about the reforms, and this time was no different. This group, which MK Benny Gantz has aptly called "the silent monks," may very well support the president's plan as a basis for discussion, but currently are choosing to keep their cards close, as they have done all along.
Haredi MKs stay silent
Third, note the silence of haredi MKs from Shas and United Torah Judaism.
Each has its own reason not to reject the president's proposal outright. United Torah Judaism cares most about the issue of the haredi draft to the IDF. Their strong support for an Override Clause was in order to legislate an exemption from service. However, the president's plan includes a clause that says that an agreed outline for military service or civil-national service legislation would be set forth as a Basic Law, thus making it immune to judicial review. This could enable UTJ to meet its goal without needing other parts of the reform.
For Shas, the most important goal is to bring Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri back into the government after being forced out by the High Court due to the "unreasonableness" of his appointment. The party for this purpose is promoting the "Deri Law," which would block judicial review over appointments of ministers.
The president's plan says, "The decisions of the government in its plenary in matters of policy and appointments of ministers will not be reviewed by a court under the reasonableness standard alone." This could open a window for the party to attempt to have Deri reinstated. The High Court could block the appointment for other reasons – but this clause alone likely led to Shas' radio silence.
What do these three points suggest?
Ultimately, while at face-level the president's proposal broke down along the political divide, it may have planted a seed that could grow into a rift in the coalition – between hard-liners who want the reform to pass as is, and those who wish to end the unrest and arrive at a compromise.
The rift in the coalition could include the haredi parties on one hand supporting compromise, the far-right parties, RZP and Otzma Yehudit, supporting the reform as is, and the Likud split down the middle.
Therefore, the outcome of the power struggle between the pro-compromise camp in the Likud listed above, and the hardliners who are toeing Levin's line – including Ministers Yoav Kisch, Shlomo Karhi, Galit Distal-Atbaryan, Miri Regev and Micky Zohar, as well as MKs Dudi Amsalem, Ofir Katz and others, may decide the fate of the judicial reforms.
Presiding over this is Netanyahu, and it is very likely that the outcome of this struggle will boil down to whether or not the prime minister agrees to water down the reform enough to calm the country's strife, at the risk of Levin and perhaps other minister's resigning – and ultimately at the risk of the government's fall.