Israeli president warns ‘civil war’ imminent if Netanyahu forges ahead with judicial overhaul
Israel's far-right government coalition refused to compromise on reforms that would neutralize the high court of justice and bring the judiciary under its control
By News Desk - March 16 2023

(Photo Credit: Flash90)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog on 15 March said Israel is at the edge of the “abyss” and warned that growing unrest over the government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system could lead down the path to civil war.

“Those who think that a real civil war, with lives lost, is a line we will not cross, have no idea. Precisely now, 75 years into Israel’s existence, the abyss is at our fingertips,” Herzog said during a televised speech.

“A civil war is a red line … I won’t let that happen at any cost or in any way,” Herzog stressed said, adding that Israel is “in the depths of a real crisis.”

The president – a mainly ceremonial position in Israel – also unveiled an alternative proposal for compromise on constitutional and judicial reforms intended to end the current conflict.

However, soon after his speech ended, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right coalition partners outright rejected Herzog’s proposal.

“Key sections of the outline he presented only perpetuate the existing situation and do not bring the required balance to the Israeli authorities … This is the unfortunate truth,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.

Faction leaders in Netanyahu’s 64-seat ruling coalition also rallied against Herzog’s proposal, calling it “one-sided, biased, and unacceptable.”

Transportation Minister Miri Regev went a step further, suggesting Herzog’s proposal was drafted by members of the judiciary and saying it “insults the intelligence of the public.”

“This framework insults the intelligence of the public. It takes a clear side against the nation and the sovereign,” she said.

Netanyahu plans to bring the first part of its judicial overhaul plan to a final vote in the Knesset next week despite weeks of mass protests and mutiny in the ranks of the military.

The reform package would bring Israel’s judiciary largely under coalition control and neutralize the High Court of Justice, giving near-unlimited power to the governing majority.

According to reports, Netanyahu was briefed about Herzog’s proposal earlier on Wednesday and wanted to accept it but backed down after Justice Minister Yariv Levin threatened to resign.

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