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Under fire for legal reforms, Netanyahu has to face critics in Berlin

BERLIN — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is under fire at home over proposed legislative reforms, was due to arrive in Berlin on Wednesday, where Germany’s leaders are also set to urge him to reconsider the overhauls.

The federal government is under pressure to take in Netanyahu at a time of controversial reforms, with critics urging Berlin to call off the visit.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Tallinn on Wednesday that he plans to discuss the reforms with Netanyahu when they meet on Thursday.

Israel is the “only democracy in the whole region, a country with a strong rule of law,” he said.

“What I would like to see is that what we admired about Israel is preserved.”

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

The changes would allow lawmakers to overrule Supreme Court decisions that strike down legislation passed by a parliamentary majority, and then deny the court the right to review such a move.

It would also make it harder for the Supreme Court to strike down laws it says violate the Basic Laws, Israel’s quasi-constitution.

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.

Netanyahu’s flight was delayed by hours as he held talks with his coalition partners while President Isaac Herzog prepared to announce his compromise draft.

Herzog, who has a largely ceremonial role, has been working for weeks on a proposal to soften the government’s legislative overhaul.

– ‘Worst Time’ –

The dispute in Israel puts Germany in an awkward 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 foreign policy priority.

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 two nations’ ambassadors, urging their governments to halt visits and condemning his “dangerous and destructive leadership”.

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.

Some Israelis living in Berlin have also called for protests against the visit, including a demonstration at the Brandenburg Gate on Thursday.

– ‘Normal Guest’ –

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

In addition to meeting Steinmeier, Netanyahu will hold separate talks with Scholz.

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.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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