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President Isaac Herzog Again Criticizes Benjamin Netanyahu’s Judicial Reform Plan


President Isaac Herzog reviews IDF Honor Guard on Israel’s Independence Day (Photo: Tzipi Bini GPO)

President of Israel Isaac Herzog had some choice words about the ongoing political drama and national feud over the government of Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial judicial reform plan. The remarks came in a speech to the Israel Bar Association. Meanwhile, President Herzog arrived Monday on a state visit to the Slovak Republic.

President Herzog has previously diverged from historical precedent by expressing his own criticisms about the judicial reform plan. In Israel, the President is a ceremonial role and he does not get involved in politics, but Herzog has been calling on the Netanyahu government to scrap elements of its judicial reform plan for some time now.

In a turn of phrase that is hard to properly translate into English, President Herzog said “The last year was the most judicial in the country’s history.” The word in Hebrew he used for “judicial” could mean litigious, or full of debate and even filled with discord.

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“The independence and strength of the courts, the legal advisers, the prosecutor’s office and all the other departments are the cornerstones of any democratic society,” he said. “We must protect and defend them from all.”

“For eight months now, the discourse on the judicial system, its powers, its conduct and its influence has been at the heart of our thoughts and, to a large extent, in Israeli society as a whole,” added President Isaac Herzog. “Never before have so many engaged in the composition of the committee for the selection of judges, and in the Basic Law of the Judiciary; in legal issues such as reasonableness and the status of the legal advisor, and especially in a difficult dispute, which shakes society and the country.”

On the bright side, Isaac Herzog commented – even if he was making a small joke – that the harsh political debate of the past year has educated the Israeli public on the country’s laws. “Every male and female citizen became knowledgeable lawyers,” he said, adding that this has given Israelis “tremendous” power.

“This year also taught many and many a basic fact concerning the legal profession, and let me add – also ours, Michal’s (his wife) and mine as lawyers and as members of the Bar Association,” he added.

Massive protests have rocked Israel since January when Justice Minister Yariv Levin revealed the government’s plans to alter the nature of Israel’s judicial system. The government’s judicial reform plan would greatly curtail the power of Israel’s Supreme Court to nullify legislation passed by the Knesset and also limit the authority of Israel’s attorney general. The opposition charges this would harm Israel’s democracy, eroding foreign confidence in the country and hurting its economy. And this is why the country is now on the brink of what some are describing as the biggest societal clash in Israel’s history.

As for his trip to the Slovak Republic, President Isaac Herzog called the country’s President Zuzana Čaputová a “true friend of the State of Israel.”

“The partnership between our countries holds great potential, and I am hopeful that my visit will open the door to more collaborations in many fields,” he added.

“The Jewish people have deep roots in Slovakia,” said Isaac Herzog. “This land saw Jewish culture flourish, yet it also saw terrible atrocities & the destruction of many Jewish communities. I thanked the President for her deep commitment to Holocaust commemoration and to fighting antisemitism.”

On President Isaac Herozg’s visit, the Slovakian President said, “Relations between our countries and peoples are long-running and excellent. Today’s visit will help deepen them further.”



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