Netanyahu’s visit to Germany cut short as protects against him back in Israel continues
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Wednesday that he had shortened a planned visit to Germany this week, after the office said earlier that it had consulted on national security developments.
The statement didn’t specify whether there was a link between shortening the visit and the security consultations, and didn’t give further details.
According to the flight schedule circulated last week, Netanyahu was scheduled to return on Friday, however the new statement said he would return on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Israelis opposed to the controversial judicial reform program demonstrated, coinciding with the departure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Berlin, who is on an official visit.
The demonstrators chanted “Don’t come back” and hung posters with the same phrase written on them along the road leading to Ben Gurion Airport.
Number of Israelis living in Berlin called for a demonstration on Thursday to protest the visit.
On the eve of his departure to Germany and prior to a scheduled visit to Britain next week, 1,000 writers, artists and academics sent a letter to the ambassadors of the two European countries calling on their governments to cancel the visit.
“In light of the dangerous and destructive leadership of Netanyahu and in light of the widespread civil and democratic resistance against the destruction of state institutions through an undemocratic law-making process, we ask Germany and Britain to quickly announce” the cancellation of Netanyahu’s visits, they wrote in the letter.
They warned that “if the visits go ahead as scheduled, a dark shadow will overshadow them”.
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday.
Commenting on the visit, a German government spokesman said earlier this week: “He’s the elected prime minister of Israel and therefore a regular guest in Germany”.
In Frankfurt, Meron Mindel, head of the Anne Frank Education Center named after the young Holocaust victim, said Berlin should have refused the visit.
“If an Israeli prime minister wants to get rid of shared democratic values, now is the worst possible time to invite him to Berlin,” he told public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfock.
He added that Scholz’s government should finally realize that there’s no room for dealing with an Israeli government from the extreme right, stressing that German-Israeli friendship is based on common values.
The draft law on judicial reform sparked thousands of protests and demonstrations for more than two months, as its opponents believe that it aims to undermine the judicial authority in favor of the political authority, warning that it constitutes a threat to the democratic system.
On Wednesday afternoon, a convoy of vehicles flying Israeli flags drove through the streets around the airport near Tel Aviv, hours before Netanyahu left for Germany.
The demonstration included veteran soldiers, a number of whom participated in the “Operation Entebbe” in Uganda in 1967 to liberate hostages on board a plane hijacked by Palestinian activists.
At the time, the Prime Minister’s brother, Yoni, was killed in that operation.
Critics of the reform project explain their opposition to the fact that the reforms aim to give politicians more power at the expense of the judiciary, and to protect Netanyahu, who’s facing trial on charges of corruption.
On Tuesday, the Israeli parliament approved, in its first reading, the exception clause, which gives parliamentarians the power to override Supreme Court decisions and impedes its ability to nullify legislation.
The item was approved by a majority of 61 votes in opposition to 52, and its approval remains to become an enforceable law subject to the approval of a special committee before voting on it in two second and third readings.
And parliament approved earlier this month in a first reading also another draft law that greatly reduces the possibility of considering the prime minister unable to perform his job.
Netanyahu and his allies see the reforms as necessary to restore the balance of power between elected politicians and unelected Supreme Court justices.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog tried to mediate dialogue between the government and the opposition, especially after describing the bill as a threat to the foundations of democracy in Israel.
His coalition government of nationalist and religious parties, which took power in December, is facing unprecedented protests over proposed legal changes to the judiciary.
Protesters say they will try to prevent him from arriving at the airport on Wednesday.
Separately, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said they held high-level discussions related to national security, which Israeli officials declined to comment on.
On Monday, an Israeli car driver was seriously injured in an explosion on a road near the occupied West Bank, where attacks by Palestinian militants have escalated in recent months.
The authorities obtained a court order limiting media coverage of the incident, which some Israeli media described as a roadside bomb that may have exploded prematurely.
The German government recently criticized Netanyahu’s right-wing religious government for its planned judicial reform.
According to the Israeli government’s plans, in the future parliament will be able to veto decisions of the Supreme Court by a simple majority, in addition to giving politicians more influence in appointing judges.
In Israel, there is fierce resistance to judicial reform in Israel.
Tens of thousands of Israelis have repeatedly taken to the streets to protest the weakening of the judicial system.
Those plans could also serve the prime minister in a long-running corruption case.
Experts warn of the disastrous repercussions of the reform on the economy.
Opponents of reform in Israel intend to try to prevent Netanyahu from leaving the country through roadblocks there will also be protests against Netanyahu’s plans in Berlin.