‘A golden path’: the president presents his framework offer for justice reform

President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday unveiled his “People’s Framework” proposal to replace the government’s plans to radically overhaul the justice system, in a prime-time address to the nation in which he urged both sides of the debate to “not let the country destroy” in a power struggle. battle for the judiciary, but rather seize the opportunity for “a formative constitutional moment”.

Herzog called his plan, drawn up after hundreds of hours of consultation in recent weeks with politicians, lawyers and pundits across the political spectrum, “a golden middle ground” that offers the best chance of broad national agreement on reforms.

He warned that in recent weeks he had heard first-hand from hundreds of Israelis their impassioned views on the issue: “Those who think civil war is a line we will not cross have no idea.”

Shortly after Herzog published his offer, Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs appeared to downplay it, saying it was “a unilateral proposal by the president, and no agreement had been reached with anyone in the coalition in any way.”

The central principles of the proposal, as presented on a newly launched website (Hebrew), include:

  • Changes to the Judicial Appointments Committee, as demanded by the architects of the shakeup, with judges on the panel no longer able to veto candidates as they can today. However, the coalition also does not get the desired automatic majority in the committee. The panel would consist of four coalition members, two members of the opposition, three judges and two deputies appointed by the justice minister in consultation with the president of the Supreme Court. A majority of 7 of the 11 members will be required to confirm an appointment.
  • Amendments to Israel’s quasi-constitutional basic laws require four readings in the Knesset plenum, and the fourth requires 80 MKs. Each amendment to electoral laws requires 80 MKs in all four readings. Existing basic laws will be reaffirmed. Once approved, the Supreme Court may not revise the basic laws.
  • The rights to equality, freedom of expression and protest will be enshrined in basic laws.
  • When reviewing legislation (outside of basic laws), the Supreme Court will sit with 11 judges, with 8 judges required to overturn a law.
  • The Supreme Court will not be able to strike down ministerial appointments or government policy decisions on the basis of “unreasonableness”. However, the clause can still be used in the review of actions by public authorities.
  • Government legal advisers do not become personal appointments. However, a minister has the right to replace his legal adviser on the basis of persistent, significant disagreements that impair their ability to cooperate. The position of counsel continues to oblige the government.

“We are in the midst of a deep and worrying crisis,” Herzog said. “But I truly believe with all my heart that we also face a great, historic opportunity today.”

He called his plan “an opportunity for a balanced, smart constitutional settlement and agreement on the relations of the authorities in our Jewish and democratic country, in our beloved country.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will chair a cabinet meeting on the state budget at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem on March 12, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

“We are at a crossroads: a historic crisis or a decisive constitutional moment.”

Last week, Herzog denounced the government’s current judicial reform legislation as “oppressive” and detrimental to democracy, calling for it to be abandoned immediately and replaced with a framework for consensual reform.

The president said the national crisis over coalition efforts to weaken the judiciary was “a disaster” and “a nightmare”. He stressed that it was the responsibility of “the leaders of the state” in government to put aside the breakneck legislative indictment, lest the country descend into a social and constitutional abyss.

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