| 2 December 2023, Saturday |

Israeli opposition leader says no progress on judicial overhaul talks

After a month of discussions, Israeli parties have not advanced toward a compromise on the government’s hotly contested judicial makeover proposal, according to Benny Gantz, the leader of one of the biggest opposition groups.

After some of the largest street rallies Israel has ever seen, the planned change, which would have given the government influence over selecting Supreme Court justices and allowed parliament to overturn several decisions, was put on hold.

President Isaac Herzog has overseen meetings between various political parties, aiming to overcome divisions. The government says the overhaul is needed to rein in activist judges and restore balance between parliament and the courts.

However, Gantz, defence minister in the previous government, said the talks were “not really progressing on any of the issues”. In particular, he pointed to a standoff over one of the central issues, the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee, which appoints judges and would be controlled by members from the government camp under current plans.

“We set out with a number of principles, first and foremost that there will be no politicization of the judicial system. It hasn’t changed and it won’t change,” he said, as the Knesset parliament returned from its spring break.

Opponents say the proposals would remove vital checks and balances and give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition free rein, threatening minority rights and undermining Israel’s democratic foundations.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets every week since the start of the year, with opponents including most of the business establishment, lawyers, academics and significant numbers of military reservists.

The dispute drew in the army, with Defence Minister Yoav Gallant warning that the divisions were threatening national security and calling for a halt. The comments prompted Netanyahu to fire Gallant before reversing course after an outcry.

The government and supporters have said they hope for compromise but have vowed not to back down and have organised large counter demonstrations.

  • Reuters