BERLIN – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial legal reforms have prompted Germany’s leaders to urge him to reconsider the changes.
Netanyahu, who is on a visit to Germany, has been warned by Israel’s President Isaac Herzog of the danger of “civil war” due to the highly disputed judicial reform package, which has prompted nationwide demonstrations.
The proposed changes would allow lawmakers to override Supreme Court decisions with a parliamentary majority and make it harder for the Supreme Court to strike down legislation deemed to contravene Basic Laws, Israel’s quasi-constitution.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier plans to raise the reforms with Netanyahu, stating that Israel is the “only democracy in the whole region, a country with a strong constitutional state,” and adding that he wants to see the preservation of the admirable qualities of Israel.
The controversy has put Germany in an uncomfortable position as it has forged strong diplomatic ties with Israel in penance for the Holocaust, and successive German governments have described Israel’s national security as a crucial foreign policy priority.
Netanyahu, whose government includes ultra-Orthodox and extreme-right parties, has argued that the legal reforms are needed to limit judicial overreach, but critics charge that they threaten Israel’s liberal democracy by weakening key checks and balances.
The proposed changes have also been seen as an attempt to protect Netanyahu as he fights corruption charges in an ongoing court battle.
The Israeli prime minister has said that Iran will be the “main issue” of his discussions in Germany, along with “other topics important to Israel.”
Netanyahu is due to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz and hold separate talks with President Steinmeier.
He and Scholz will also visit the Platform 17 memorial, which commemorates the thousands of Jews who were deported from Berlin by Nazi Germany.
Demonstrations have been held in Israel and Germany against Netanyahu’s visit, with protesters holding up placards reading “Dictator on the run” and “Don’t come back”.