Justice Minister Says No to Freeze on Judicial Overhaul, Herzog Asks Again

By Yisrael Price

Justice Minister Yariv Levin (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

YERUSHALAYIM — Despite mounting pressure to take a timeout and enter negotiations on the judicial overhaul, Justice Minister Yariv Levin said there will be no delay in bringing the proposals to the Knesset.

“The legislation won’t be frozen for even a minute,” Levin told Channel 13 news on Sunday.

The comment was in effect his response to President Isaac Herzog’s call last week to suspend action on the judicial overhaul for two weeks to allow for meetings that would lead to a compromise.

High Court chief Esther Hayut, National Party leader Benny Gantz and others have also said the government should sit down and negotiate with those who are opposed to the far-reaching reforms.

Levin said that he is open to suggestions “which can bring benefits and improve some of the proposals.”

“But when I take a look at the political picture at the moment, I can’t find a single responsible opposition member of Knesset,” he said.

Senior officials in the coalition were quoted by Arutz Sheva as voicing support for the Herzog plan to host talks at the President’s Residence, but sided with Levin that efforts to pass the legislation would not be suspended.

Herzog on Sunday evening cited an increasingly violent discourse in fresh remarks:

“We are in a very volatile moment. I say this from a place of historical responsibility. I hear that people and public leaders are called names in public and compared to Nazis. People forget what the Holocaust is when they casually use the term ‘Nazi.’”

Herzog did not give specific examples, but the comments come just days after former prime minister Ehud Barak shared an image comparing Herzog — who has been urging dialogue in an effort to forge a compromise — to former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain and his appeasement of the Nazis.

Herzog also condemned threats to assassinate Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“The debate is heating up to dangerous places and I call from here on all those involved in the disagreement: Stop a moment, breathe,” Herzog said. “Stop the whole process for a moment, breathe deep, allow for dialogue because there is a huge majority of the nation that wants dialogue.”

Meanwhile on Sunday, the Kan public broadcaster reported that coalition parties are considering a strategic change: splitting Levin’s proposals and voting first on changing the makeup of the judicial selection committee and preventing the High Court from striking down Basic Laws.

The Chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution Committee, MK Simcha Rothman, is expected to announce such a move in the coming days.

The coalition reportedly hopes to bring those parts of the overhaul to a Knesset vote in the next two weeks.

In a sign of the extraordinary tension currently existing between the government and the judiciary, Justice Hayut will not attend a traditional Tu B’shevat ceremony with senior government officials in the office of the Knesset speaker on Monday, according to Walla.

Hayut’s official reason for skipping the event: “A crowded schedule, I’ll join in the ceremony at the plenum.”

The get-together, usually about a 20-minute affair, is normally attended by the president, prime minister Knesset speaker, High Court president and the opposition leader, along with their spouses, although this time spouses were reportedly not invited, though no reason was given.

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