Negotiating teams representing the coalition and the opposition parties Yesh Atid and National Unity met for the first round of judicial reform negotiations at President Isaac Herzog's residence in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday night that the coalition was temporarily halting the judicial reform legislation in order to enter talks.
The first round of negotiations concluded after one hour and was held in "good spirits," the President's Residence announced. Talks are set to continue on Wednesday.
Lapid announces negotiation team
Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid and National Unity chairman MK Benny Gantz agreed to enter talks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a legislation freeze on Monday evening.
National Unity was the first to announce its negotiating team, which will consist of MKs Gideon Sa'ar, Chili Tropper, Orit Farkash-HaCohen and Attorney Ronen Aviani.
Lapid announced on Tuesday morning that his team will consist of MKs Orna Barbivai and Karin Elharar, former Director-General of the Prime Minister's Office Naama Schultz and Attorney Oded Gazit.
The Likud's team of negotiators include Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs and Dr. Aviad Bakshi, head of the legal department at the Kohelet Forum, and Professor Talia Einhorn, the party said on Tuesday afternoon.
Yisrael Beytenu's team includes MK Oded Forrer, former MKs Alex Kusnir and Limor Magen-Tellem, and attorney Guy Wagner.
The president reportedly will first host the teams in a joint meeting. The teams will then negotiate amongst themselves, while the president may hold individual meetings with each one of them. Later in the week he is expected to meet with representatives of the other parties. A meeting with the Yisrael Beytenu team is scheduled for Wednesday, the party announced on Tuesday evening.
Herzog referred to the negotiations at an event at Yad Vashem on Tuesday, and expressed his hope that they will "calm the spirits, lower the flames and lead to positive results with a broad agreement."
The president added that he would work "in full cooperation with all of the political and public systems."
Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Religious Zionist Party, Yehuda Vald, expressed skepticism about the negotiations and especially the role of President Herzog.
"The president is unfortunately not objective. We need to talk and reach a balanced outline. But without him, he is part of the problem, not the solution."
Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Liberman called on Lapid and Gantz to retract their commitments to negotiation due to the Knesset speaker's announcement on Tuesday the bill to give the coalition a majority in the Judicial Appointments Committee had been placed on the Knesset floor. The step is somewhat technical, but Liberman argued that it had not been necessary and indicated the coalition's intention not to compromise.
"Negotiations cannot be conducted when Netanyahu and his partners continue in the legislative process," Liberman wrote on Twitter.
He called on Lapid and Gantz not to engage in negotiation until the bill is removed from the Knesset floor and returned to the Knesset Constitution Committee, adding that "this is not how dialogue is held."