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11 Mar, 2023 15:45

German president ‘concerned’ about Israeli judicial reform

The country is known for its “strong and vibrant rule of law,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated as an overhaul looms
German president ‘concerned’ about Israeli judicial reform

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has voiced concern over proposed judicial reforms in Israel, urging “calmness” and “dialogue” on the controversial plans. The president made the remarks in Berlin on Friday, during an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the University of Haifa.

“We are also concerned about the planned restructuring of the rule of law – especially because we Germans always greatly admired the strong and vibrant rule of law in Israel. Precisely because we know how necessary this strong and vibrant rule of law is in the region,” Steinmeier stated.

The president revealed he has been in “regular contact” with his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog, and said that he is “counting on his smart and balancing voice” in the debate on the proposed judiciary overhaul. 

“Those who work toward understanding and calmness, toward dialogue, deserve all our support,” Steinmeier added. 

The rare foreign policy remarks from the German president, who plays a largely ceremonial role, come ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the country next week, where he is expected to meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

While Steinmeier did not elaborate on the exact nature of his “concerns” over the looming judiciary changes, the reforms have been a hot topic for Israel in recent weeks, sparking public controversy and mass protests. The overhaul planned by Netanyahu would allow the government to control the appointment of judges, including those of the Supreme Court, and allow parliament to overrule the top court’s decisions with a simple majority.

The legislation, which is being prepared for readings in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, has been branded “oppressive” by its critics, who have claimed it could jeopardize democracy and rule of law. That stance was backed by Herzog, with the Israeli president urging the proposed judicial reform bill to be completely replaced.

In its current form, the legislation “is wrong, predatory and dismantles our democratic foundations,” Herzog said in a statement on Thursday. He added that “it must be replaced with another [bill], an agreed upon outline – and immediately.”

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