Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured on March 10, 2023).
Berlin – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Berlin on Thursday, March 16, where he will hold talks with Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz. German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told journalists at a press conference today. The topics of the conversation will be bilateral relations, security issues concerning the Middle East region and the whole world, as well as the proposed controversial judicial reform in Israel.
Hundreds of thousands of people are demonstrating in Israel against the judicial reform proposed by the Netanyahu government. Critics say the reform will threaten democracy, as it would give the government more influence over the appointment of judges and limit the powers of the supreme court. Israeli President Yitzhak Herzog also spoke out against the changes.
Germany also expressed concerns about the reform. Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock hosted Israeli colleague Eli Cohen in Berlin at the end of February. During a joint press conference, she said that Berlin is watching some of Israel's legislative steps with concern.
“The values that bind us together include the protection of the principles of the rule of law, including the independence of the judiciary,” Baerbock said. Cohen responded that Israel is a vibrant democracy and that judicial reform will result in a strengthening of Israeli democracy.
Netanyahu and Scholz are also expected to discuss air defense cooperation. Last year in September, Scholz discussed it in Berlin with Netanyahu's predecessor, Yair Lapid. Scholz then explicitly mentioned Israel's advanced Arrow 3 anti-missile system. Germany is at the head of a group of European countries that want to build a common air defense system. This project, to which the Czech Republic joined, was proposed by Scholz last August in Prague in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.