BERLIN (JTA) – Approximately 1,000 people — most of them Israelis living in Berlin — gathered Thursday at the iconic Brandenburg Gate here to show solidarity with protests against judicial reform in Israel.
The protesters’ messages were intended for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in the German capital for meetings with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Netanyahu also visited a Holocaust memorial, which is located at a site from which some 10,000 Berlin Jews were deported by train to slave labor or concentration camps in 1941 and 1942.
But Netanyahu never came near the protesters: Berlin took extreme security measures to keep the public away from the Israeli leader, who stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, more than three miles away from the site of the protests. Many streets leading to the hotel were blocked.
That didn’t spare Netanyahu from hearing criticism of his legislation, which would sap Israel’s Supreme Court of much of its power and which is currently advancing in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. At a joint press conference after a private meeting, Scholz said he had urged Netanyahu to consider a compromise proposal advanced by Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog.
“As democratic value partners and close friends of Israel, we are following this debate very closely and — I will not hide this — with great concern,” Scholz said. “The independence of the judiciary is a high democratic good.”
Netanyahu rejected Herzog’s proposal before leaving for Berlin but sought to reassure Scholz, who leads a key ally of Israel, that he would not reject democratic norms. “I want to assure you that Israel will stay a liberal democracy,” Netanyahu said.