President Isaac Herzog on Tuesday expressed fear Israel is facing a devastating internal struggle over the country’s character, amid a public outcry and protests against the government’s planned shakeup of the judicial system.

“The democratic foundations of Israel, including the justice system, are sacred and we must protect them,” Herzog said, addressing the Ashmoret education conference in Tel Aviv.

“The dramatic reform, when done quickly without negotiation, rouses opposition and deep concerns among the public,” he said.

“I see the sides prepared and ready all along the front for an all-out confrontation over the character of the State of Israel, and I am anxious we are on the brink of an internal struggle that could consume us all,” Herzog said, according to Channel 13 news.

In addition to the mass protests in Tel Aviv — where mentions of Herzog have drawn jeers for his inaction — thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in front of the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, demanding he take a clear stance in defense of the judiciary.

Herzog has been vocal in his position, calling on the government to listen to the voices of diverse communities. He made efforts for meditation, meeting with Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, opposition leader Yair Lapid, and Justice Minister Yariv Levin.

However, Herzog has explicitly noted that his efforts may fail.

“We are facing a fateful test. We need to strive for broad agreements. I see signs of goodwill,” Herzog said Tuesday.

“During the reigns of the House of David and the Hasmoneans, Jewish states were established in the land of Israel, and twice they collapsed before reaching their 80th anniversary. Let me emphatically emphasize: I am not a prophet of doom, I never was and never will be. I am a great believer in the resilience of the State of Israel, and the strength of the wonderful people who live here,” Herzog said.

But he added: Israelis must “take responsibility and protect what we have built here.”

Education Minister Yoav Kisch and Israel Teachers Union chair Yaffa Ben David, who were in attendance, wished the president luck in his efforts to bridge the gaps on the issue in their respective remarks at the conference.

As presented by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the coalition’s proposals would severely restrict the High Court’s capacity to strike down laws and government decisions, with an “override clause” enabling the Knesset to re-legislate struck-down laws with a bare majority of 61; give the government complete control over the selection of judges; prevent the court from using a test of “reasonableness” to judge legislation and government decisions; and allow ministers to appoint their own legal advisers, instead of getting counsel from advisers operating under the aegis of the Justice Ministry.

Despite intense public criticism over the plans, Channel 12 reported on Monday that Levin is determined to push through his original reforms and has no intention of compromising. The report said that Levin was giving indications of a willingness to talk in order to calm the waters and buy himself time to prepare the legislation.

In his speech, Herzog announced his vision for the 80th anniversary of the State of Israel in 2028, calling for the President’s Residence to serve as a “protected space for managing disputes and bridging rifts” amid the crisis.

He also unveiled a project establishing an educational center for fostering coexistence, as well as a space for discreet discussions on core issues. He did not provide details on how the program will be implemented but said that active steps will be taken to exchange opinions and deal with disputes.

Tal Schneider and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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Herzog warns of internal clash over judicial overhaul ‘that could consume us all’

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24.01.2023

President Isaac Herzog on Tuesday expressed fear Israel is facing a devastating internal struggle over the country’s character, amid a public outcry and protests against the government’s planned shakeup of the judicial system.

“The democratic foundations of Israel, including the justice system, are sacred and we must protect them,” Herzog said, addressing the Ashmoret education conference in Tel Aviv.

“The dramatic reform, when done quickly without negotiation, rouses opposition and deep concerns among the public,” he said.

“I see the sides prepared and ready all along the front for an all-out confrontation over the character of the State of Israel, and I am anxious we are on the brink of an internal struggle that could consume us all,” Herzog said, according to Channel 13 news.

In addition to the mass protests in Tel Aviv — where mentions of Herzog have drawn jeers for his inaction — thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in front of the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, demanding he take a clear stance in defense of the judiciary.

Herzog has been vocal in his position, calling on the government to listen to the voices of diverse communities. He made........

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