By dpa correspondents I Thursday, March 16, 2023
BERLIN – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Berlin on Thursday for an official visit to Germany, against the backdrop of political turmoil in his country brought about by his far-right government’s controversial judicial reforms.
Netanyahu is due to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Federal Chancellery and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at Bellevue Palace in Berlin.
Netanyahu and Scholz are also due to visit the Holocaust Memorial Platform 17 at Grunewald station in western Berlin, from where thousands of Jews were deported to labour and concentration camps under the Nazi regime.
Netanyahu is due to leave again on Thursday evening, earlier than the initially planned Friday morning.
The visit is overshadowed by the outcry against the judicial reforms that Netanyahu’s government is trying to fast-track through parliament. The aim of the reforms is to weaken the independence of the judiciary.
After Steinmeier criticized the planned reforms last week, observers will follow closely how Scholz deals with the issue.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, is looking to garner support in Berlin for an alliance against Israel’s arch-enemy Iran.
Protests against the judicial reforms have been going on for more than two months in Israel, while attempts to reach a compromise have failed. There are increasing warning signs that Israel is heading towards a constitutional crisis.
Protests are also expected in Berlin on Thursday. The largest rally with some 1,000 participants is scheduled to take place at Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate.
Netanyahu’s visit is being accompanied by a large-scale police operation. His hotel in the city centre has been cordoned off and traffic diversions put in place.
Traffic was being restricted around the Chancellery and Schloss Bellevue, as well as Grunewald station, the traffic information centre announced, warning of disruptions. Flight traffic in Berlin and the surrounding area is also affected, the police said.
The police union said more than 3,000 police officers would be deployed for the visit. The highest security level has been set for Netanyahu’s stay in Berlin, although this is in line with his recent visits.