Shas Chairman MK Aryeh Deri on Monday was interviewed for the first time since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended the judicial reform legislation. The interview was published by his party’s email newspaper Haderech, and Deri, an old war horse in Israeli politics, was very critical of the coalition and directed poignant threats at the opposition.
“We went to a nuclear war with a pop gun,” Deri criticized the two men who promoted the legislation – Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Constitution Committee Chairman MK Simcha Rothman. “We made a mistake by presenting the entire package of the reform together,” Deri explained.
The Shas chairman attacked the protesters: “They tried to shut down the country. Their clear line was unequivocal, this is a coup d’etat, unequivocal.”
Regarding the talks being conducted at the President’s residence, Deri directed an unmistakable threat at the opposition parties: “If anyone interprets as a sign of weakness our desire to go to talks and bridge the divisions – they are very mistaken. If anyone tries to take advantage of our goodwill and our sense of responsibility, they will find a united coalition that will act wisely to move all the changes forward, step by step.”
Deri added that “you need to know when to bow your head a little so that later we can raise it and succeed in reaching the goal. If we come to an understanding, good, surely, we will all be happy to reach understanding and agreement. If not – if they disrupt the negotiations – we will move forward without them. If we come to an understanding – that’s good, if not then we will continue with the legislation as planned. We should give an opportunity during the next month for talks.”
The negotiation talks at the President’s residence will resume on Tuesday with both sides present. In the meantime, talks continue behind the scenes, with one essential coalition demand being that it should be allowed to appoint the next Supreme Court judge with a simple majority in the committee to elect judges.
Some opposition parties reject this altogether; others agree but condition it on not allowing this judge to replace outgoing Court President Esther Hayut, which would mean that the seniority system in appointing the next president remain intact.
On Sunday, Likud Transport Minister Miri Regev told Likud’s United magazine that “the reform has only been suspended and there’s a very clear date for the next Knesset session. Right after Independence Day, we will continue with the legislation. If they do not come to an agreement with us, we will return to the outline that was approved in the first reading and we will pass it in the second and third readings.”
“I thought we should go with the initial outline,” Regev said. “But in the end, a vote was held (in the Likud center – DI) and we decided to go with a softened outline that includes two important anchors for us – the cancellation of the judges’ veto [on judicial appointments] and the cancellation of seniority.”