Despite massive protests, Israel's right-wing religious government has pushed ahead with its plan to weaken the judicial system. The parliament (Knesset) approved part of the controversial judicial reform in the first of three readings on Tuesday night (local time) after an eight-hour session. Tens of thousands of people protested nationwide on Monday against the plans of the right-wing religious government.
Meanwhile, Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann visited the country for the first time since the Israeli government was sworn in. The FDP politician found warning words without mentioning the proposed law directly.
"Learning from history means recognizing that you should look for broad majorities if you want to change the rules of the game of democratic competition and the interaction of constitutional bodies," said Buschmann at an exhibition opening in Tel Aviv in the evening. In Germany, amendments to the Basic Law are only possible with a two-thirds majority in the Bundestag and Bundesrat. "That usually only succeeds if large sections of the opposition are also convinced of the need for change."
The aim of the judicial reform planned by the Israeli government is to enable the parliament - currently dominated by it - to overturn decisions of the highest court with a simple majority. Politicians should also be given more influence in the appointment of judges. Critics see the democratic separation of powers in danger, and there have been repeated mass demonstrations against the coalition's plans. The right-wing religious government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, argues that the Supreme Court is currently exercising too much political influence.
Supreme Court has special meaning
Because Israel does not have a written constitution and the state is instead based on a set of basic laws, the Supreme Court is of particular importance in upholding the rule of law and human rights. President Izchak Herzog warned of a constitutional and social collapse in Israel if the government implemented its plans uncompromisingly and against all odds.
Buschmann wants to meet his Israeli counterpart Jariv Levin on Tuesday. It is the first visit by a German minister to Israel since the new coalition under Netanyahu was sworn in at the end of last year. It is the most right-wing government the country has ever had.
On Monday, Buschmann opened a traveling exhibition in Tel Aviv on how the Federal Ministry of Justice dealt with its own Nazi past, which had previously been shown in several cities in Germany as well as in Poland and the USA. Among other things, it shows how the Ministry of Justice dealt with the Nazi past of its employees and the prosecution of National Socialist crimes after the founding of the Federal Republic. For example, Nazis from the judiciary were able to continue their careers after the end of the war.
Buschmann: Learning from history for the present
The results of the processing of the history of the ministry are frightening, said Buschmann. "Not only before 1945 did too many people look the other way, even after 1945 too many did." It is important to draw lessons from history for the present. "Lawyers shouldn't just see themselves as legal technicians who pour any political idea into paragraphs and enforce it." The majority should never have the last word - only an independent judiciary could have that.
In the afternoon, Buschmann visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. There he laid a wreath to commemorate the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. "Today I am a guest from the country of the perpetrators, who bows to the victims," wrote the minister in the guest book.
In addition to meeting Levin, Buschmann also wants to hold talks with Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara and the President of the Supreme Court, Esther Chajut, during his visit to Israel.