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Berlin under fire over Netanyahu visit

BERLIN — The German government is under pressure to take in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was due to arrive in Berlin later on Wednesday and is facing heavy criticism over proposed law reforms.

On the eve of Netanyahu’s departure for Germany and ahead of a planned trip to the UK, 1,000 writers, artists and academics wrote to the ambassadors of the two European nations, urging their governments to scrap the visits.

“In the face of Mr. Netanyahu’s dangerous and destructive leadership, and in the face of massive democratic civil resistance to the destruction of state institutions through undemocratic legislation, we urge Germany and Britain to quickly announce the cancellation of Netanyahu’s visits,” they wrote in the letter.

“If these visits go ahead as planned, a dark shadow will hang over them,” they warned.

In Frankfurt, Meron Mendel, who runs the Anne Frank Education Center named after the teenage Holocaust victim, said Berlin should have turned down the visit.

“If an Israeli Prime Minister wants to get rid of common democratic values, then today is the worst possible time to invite him to Berlin,” Mendel told Bayerischer Rundfunk.

Berlin should have made it clear to Netanyahu’s office that reception was not possible at this time, said the German-Israeli historian.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government must “finally recognize” that “no business can be done with a far-right Israeli government,” said Mendel, noting that German-Israeli friendship is based on shared values.

– ‘Normal Guest’ –

Netanyahu’s government, which includes ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties, unveiled its judicial reform package in January.

Netanyahu’s government has argued that the reforms are necessary to limit judicial hyperbole, but protesters have denounced them as a threat to Israel’s liberal democracy by weakening key control mechanisms.

Ten straight weeks of nationwide demonstrations followed, with critics also charging that the proposed changes are aimed at protecting Netanyahu while he fights corruption charges in an ongoing court case.

Before Netanyahu’s departure, critics took their protests to Ben Gurion Airport.

“Dictator on the Run” and “Don’t Come Back” read placards held up by protesters near the airport, where a convoy of cars flying Israeli flags drove between terminals, making access difficult, an AFP reporter reported. Correspondent.

The controversy in Israel puts Germany in an uncomfortable position.

Germany and Israel forged strong diplomatic ties in the decades following World War II, with Berlin pledged to uphold the Jewish state as penance for the Holocaust.

Successive German governments have identified Israel’s national security as a crucial priority of Berlin’s foreign policy.

Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday.

Steinmeier had recently expressed concern about the planned change in the law.

Some Israelis living in Berlin have also called for protests against the visit.

Activists have announced a demonstration at the Brandenburg Gate for Thursday afternoon under the motto “Defend Israel’s democracy”.

Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said on Monday that Netanyahu was “the elected Prime Minister of Israel and therefore also a normal guest in Germany”.

According to Netanyahu’s office, the prime minister and Scholz will “discuss diplomatic and security issues, most notably the Iran issue, as well as regional developments.”

He said the Israeli leader will “emphasize the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

The meeting with Scholz is the first in her current role, “and an expression of the special relationship between Israel and Germany and cooperation in a number of areas,” Netanyahu’s office added.

Peter Lintl from the German Institute for International Politics and Security wrote in a comment for the Tagesspiegel that the visit offers Netanyahu relief from domestic political pressure and “a stage on which he can shine”.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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