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‘A civil war is a red line’: Herzog, Netanyahu at odds

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Maayan Lubell

JERUSALEM: Jerusalem awoke to the sight of a long red line painted by protesters along roads leading to Israel’s Supreme Court, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a compromise deal for his government’s planned judicial overhaul.

The hard-right government’s drive to limit Supreme Court powers while increasing its own power in selecting judges has caused alarm at home and abroad about the country’s democratic checks and balances. Anti-reform protests have swelled for weeks.

President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday said the country was at a turning point and that he’d been involved in mediation efforts and speaking with ‘‘thousands of people’’ for weeks.

‘‘A civil war is a red line,’’ the president said. ‘‘I won’t let that happen.’’ He said Israel was ‘‘in the depths of a real crisis’’ but also ‘‘in front of a huge opportunity’’.

‘‘Most Israelis want a plan that will bring both justice and peace.’’

If the initial proposal passes, it will mean greater government sway in selecting judges and it will limit the power of the Supreme Court to strike down legislation.

Netanyahu says it will correct an imbalance that he says has given the courts too much sway in how the country is governed.

Netanyahu said a compromise outlined by Herzog would not restore balance to the branches of government and was ‘‘one-sided’’.

Hosting Netanyahu in Berlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at a news conference: ‘‘As close friends of Israel, we are following this debate very closely.

‘‘The independence of the judiciary is a precious democratic asset. We agree on that.’’

Of Herzog’s suggestion, Scholz said: ‘‘We would like the last word not to have to have been spoken on this proposal.’’

The White House praised Herzog’s effort to broker a compromise.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said: ‘‘The genius of our democracy – and frankly Israel’s democracy – is that they’re built on strong institutions, that they include checks and balances that foster an independent judiciary.’’

Police said they had arrested five people who had disguised themselves as workers to carry out the red line protest action at night.

Drone footage showed a small group of people in protective suits spraying a wide red stripe along mostly deserted roads leading from a police and magistrate’s compound up to the Supreme Court in central Jerusalem.

A slogan stencilled in red onto the road in Hebrew, Arabic and English by the side of the road read: ‘‘Drawing the line’’.

Demonstrators also blocked roads around Tel Aviv and in other cities. At the Haifa port, a few flagtoting protesters on boats, including former navy men, tried to block docking lanes.

Said choreographer Renana Raz in Tel Aviv: ‘‘We feel that our country is under brutal attack by the government.’’

Reuters, AP

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Article source: The Age

2024-02-22 05:36:48.000000