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Political Upheaval in Israel Continues as Netanyahu Rejects President Herzog’s compromise Proposal

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The President of Israel Isaac Herzog made a public plea Wednesday for Israelis to end the political turmoil that the country has endured in the months since the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released its controversial judicial reform plan. The government’s leaders rejected the President’s proposal, saying that it fails to deal with the problem of a lack of balance they say currently exists in Israel in which the courts hold too much power above the democratically elected Knesset.

Netanyahu, in rejecting the President’s compromise, said, “Key sections of the outline presented by President Herzog only perpetuate the existing situation and do not bring the required balance to the Israeli authorities.”

And so, on Wednesday masses of Israelis took to the streets once again in protest.

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Tel Aviv highways and roads were once again blocked by protestors.

Overnight, protestors in Jerusalem painted a wide red line on the roads that lead from the city’s main courthouse in town all the way to the Supreme Court building.

Also, anti-government protestors Wednesday morning opposed to its judicial reform plan blocked the roads in front of the IDF draft center in the city of Bnei Brak, a city outside of Tel Aviv known for its ultra-orthodox population. The protestors are all people who serve in the IDF reserves and, like secular Israelis, resent the continued draft deferments that ultra-orthodox Israelis continue to receive as long as they study in Yeshivot (Tora academies) and therefore never serve in the IDF.

Ironically, it is for that very reason that the ultra-orthodox don’t even want IDF draft centers near their communities.

The former Minister of Defense and a current opposition leader in the Knesset once more called on Netanyahu to stop the judicial reform process.

“Don’t let the extremists tear us apart from the inside,” he said.

And in the wake of President Herzog’s speech, Gantz added that he is willing to sit down for talks with the government about the matter saying, “The president of the country understood the magnitude of the hour, and the outline he presented protects the basis of democracy. Therefore, the State Camp (his party) and I say to the coalition today as well – stop, and we will talk on its basis. This can and must be the beginning of the dialogue – the door must not be closed.”

“It is not too late to say – the State of Israel is more important than the politics of cowardice. The State of Israel needs Zionist politics,” declared Gantz. “I am calling from here to my brothers who are protesting today – come out, make your voice heard according to the law. And as in the past – the State of Israel will win, its values will win, its citizens will win.”

(Israeli women march wearing Handmaid’s Tale costumes because they fear the judicial reforms would lead to more religious coercion in Israel.)

Former Prime Minister Yair Lapid charged that violence towards the protesters is increasing and blamed the Netanyahu government for this.

He also spoke with the head of Israel’s national labor federation, the Histadrut, about the risk posed to the Israeli economy following the government’s rejection of the president’s compromise proposal. Lapid said the chairman expressed full support for it.

This is important because there are murmurings of a nationwide general strike in protest against the government. Should this happen, all schools would be closed, along with all government offices and any agency that provides services would be closed.

The judicial reforms would effectively end judicial review in Israel, taking away the Supreme Court’s ability to serve as a check on government actions and laws passed by the Knesset. The opposition claims this would end democracy in Israel because democracy does not mean that whoever won an election can do whatever they want as long as they have a majority vote.

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