Opposition suspends talks on judicial overhaul over judicial panel delay

Yair Lapid says Netanyahu knows the implication of delaying the selection of judges and until a panel is seated there is no point in negotiations; accuses the prime minister of being a liar; Netanyahu: opposition wanted talks to fail from the moment go

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Opposition leader Yair Lapid on Wednesday said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prevented the election of the coalition's representative to the panel for selecting judges thereby maintaining the government's option to weaken the power of the courts.
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הצבעה לוועדה לבחירת שופטים במליאת הכנסת
הצבעה לוועדה לבחירת שופטים במליאת הכנסת
Yair Lapid (center) in the Knesset on Wednesday
(Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
"Netanyahu knows very well what the implications of his actions are. They were made clear to him by President Issac Herzog and by us. If there is no panel to select judges, there will be no talks to reach a broad agreement on a judicial overhaul," Lapid said adding that the prime minister who was once a liar but a strong politician was now just a liar. In response, Netanyahu said the opposition was not serious about reaching a compromise, from the start.
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נתניהו בתגובה לתוצאות לוועדה לבחירת שופטים
נתניהו בתגובה לתוצאות לוועדה לבחירת שופטים
Benjamin Netanyahu in a social media post
In an anonymous vote in the Knesset earlier, Netanyahu's coalition did not select a representative to the panel while the opposition secured the participation of its own representative.
The makeup of the panel that would ultimately select the Supreme Court judges was part of the legislation tabled by the coalition to overhaul the judiciary. After mass demonstrations broke out in January after the legislative push was announced by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, and the fallout for Israel's economy and international standing – Netanyahu announced he would pause legislation until a broad agreement could be reached with the opposition.
Both sides have been meeting in efforts to reach such an understanding, under the auspices of the president who warned the fracture in Israeli society could become irreversible and must be avoided.
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Issac Herzog
Issac Herzog
Issac Herzog
(Photo: GPO)
But the prime minister is under pressure from members of his own party as well as his coalition partners to see the legislation through. After he conceded to the demands of the opposition to allow one of the two positions on the judges' selection panel reserved for Knesset members, to be filled by an opposition lawmaker, he was faced with threats from Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit Party who was promised a seat on the panel in his coalition agreement.
Failure to select two members of the Knesset on Wednesday delays the convening of the panel, which the opposition regards as a ploy that will ultimately ensure the coalition's bid to control the selection of judges through a change in legislation, or through a shift in the balance of power among other members of the panel. A new representative of the Lawyers Association would be named after the association elects its new leader next week, which the coalition hopes will be in support of the overhaul as it was originally intended.
Meanwhile, the protesters who have been out on the streets in great numbers for the past 23 weeks have said they would increase their pressure on both the coalition and the opposition until the judicial overhaul bills are scrapped entirely. They regard Wednesday's events in the Knesset as proof that Netanyahu was not really seeking compromise and was only hoping to exhaust the Israeli public and weaken its demonstrations.
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הפגנה נגד המהפכה המשפטית
הפגנה נגד המהפכה המשפטית
Mass demonstrations in Tel Aviv earlier this month
(Photo: AFP)
"Netanyahu chose war against democracy and we will win it," the protest organizers said in a statement after the Knesset vote as they called on Israelis to demonstrate.
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