Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz
Yair Lapid and Benny GantzYonatan Sindel/Flash90

Yesh Atid and National Unity party leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz issued a joint statement Monday afternoon in response to the efforts of President Isaac Herzog to hold direct talks to reach a negotiated solution to the crisis surrounding the government's planned judicial reforms.

Lapid and Gantz said: "Our every attempt to reach out for the unity of Israel has been met with rejection and refusal. Israel stands at the threshold of a national emergency, and Netanyahu refuses to step on the brakes."

"We greatly respect and appreciate the efforts of the President to reach broad talks and agreements. But in order to hold honest and effective negotiations that will lead to the preservation of Israeli democracy and the unity of the people, Netanyahu must announce a complete, comprehensive and real halt to the legislative process. All attempts at shortcuts fly in the face of real dialogue," they added.

During a meeting with 100 mayors and heads of local councils Monday, President Herzog said that "we are closer than ever to the possibility of an agreed outline" on the judicial reforms,

He explained: "There are agreements behind the scenes on most things. They make sense and they are reasonable. On the other hand, it depends on our national leadership, the leaders of both the coalition and the opposition, on whether they will succeed in rising to the magnitude of the moment in recognition of the terrible alternative that is lurking - on whether they will put the country and its citizens above everything else."

The President added that "the outline that I am working to formulate provides answers to those on both sides of the debate. It lays down important and historical constitutional foundations, and anchors a healthy balance between the branches of government. It preserves democracy and human rights as well as the independence of the judicial system. It also protects minorities and will preserve the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state based on the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

"We are now at the eleventh hour, and I am appealing to you, the heads of local authorities, to help, as you wield immense power! Go out and appeal to everyone who is involved in the process and to everyone with influence, use all your connections and influence to help bring this crisis to a solution," Herzog said.

MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash - Ta'al) earlier called on the Arab-Israeli to join the protests against the judicial reforms.

"We must say a good word about the Supreme Court, since it was the Supreme Court which permitted Heba Yazbak to be a candidate for the Knesset, even though the Central Elections Committee invalidated her," Odeh said.

Yazbak was prohibited from running for the Knesset by the Central Elections Committee in 2020 due to her support for terrorist attacks. The Supreme Court overturned the committee's decision and permitted her to run. She was elected to the Knesset and served as an MK for two years. She has been questioned by the police on suspicion of incitement.

MK Tzvi Sukkot (Religious Zionism party) responded that Odeh's comments show why the judicial reforms are necessary.

"Ayman Odeh is right! This is exactly what the Supreme Court is like. Do we want to continue to have a Supreme Court that permits those who support terrorism to serve in the Knesset? Please do recall that the Blue & White party and even the Labor party supported the invalidation of Heba Yazbak as a supporter of terrorism, but the Supreme Court overturned the invalidation," Sukkot said.

"This is exactly what the reforms are all about," Sukkot stressed. "It's about time that the Supreme Court was cut down to size."