New challenges may be emerging for those seeking to negotiate a broad agreement on the judicial reforms, in the form of new preconditions.
The negotiations for judicial reforms were stymied for three months until recently by the opposition's precondition that the coalition cease the legislative process for reform bills - a demand that was met on Monday in a speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after unprecedented protests.
While President Isaac Herzog has been cast as mediator, coalition and opposition factions have created negotiation teams, and the sides met for the first time on Tuesday, some opposition members have declared further reservations.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman announced on Wednesday morning that his party would not be joining the proceedings unless the Judicial Selection Committee bill was removed on the Knesset table, and the coalition paused the Gifts Law.
The judicial reform bill was placed on the Knesset table on Tuesday as a matter of technical procedure following a Monday Constitution, Law and Justice Committee vote to approve the article for final plenum readings, the committee spokesperson said.
The placement of the bill on the table angered the Yesh Atid and the National Unity parties, who warned that they would walk away from negotiations if it progressed, stopping short of conditioning talks on its removal from the plenum.
However, there is a growing activist chorus in Liberman's wake calling for the bill's removal.
The Forum of Law Lecturers for Democracy issued a position paper on Wednesday on legal ways to anchor the bill in place. The paper warns that Netanyahu's statement is not legally binding, and without such a restriction, "the negotiation is done under the constant threat of immediate promotion of the legislation."
Over thirty protest groups issued a declaration on Tuesday warning that Netanyahu intended to immediately pass the bill following the Knesset's spring recess, and that it was impossible to hold the negotiations if the bill was in a position in which it could be passed within a few hours. They urged Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz to stop the negotiations and said that they would continue the protests.
The Gifts Law
The Gifts Law began to cause a similar stir among anti-reformists on Wednesday, but was paused ahead of its first readings in response to the opposition backlash.
The law would allow for donations to politicians' legal and medical expenses. Critics have argued that this bill is a personal law to benefit Netanyahu, who has been ordered by the High Court of Justice to return donations.
The Gifts Law halting showed both that the opposition is willing to set new negotiation preconditions, and that the coalition is willing to acquiesce.
"The coalition needs to remove the corrupt gift law not only from the agenda of this session, this law cannot be put to a vote in the Israeli Knesset," said Lapid on Wednesday. "The time has come for them to start thinking about the citizens of Israel."
While not directly linked to the negotiations, except by Liberman, the opposition had warned of "massive opposition," which comes in the context of the large protests and already sensitive negotiations.
The opposition may continue to try to set preconditions on the negotiations, in order to leverage other non-judicial reform political objectives.
If the opposition takes this path, or otherwise continues to apply new preconditions for any other reason, the coalition may feel that there is no good faith partner in the negotiations, and act unilaterally.