Accompanied by protests, Chancellor Olaf Scholz will receive Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin. The two will first visit the Holocaust memorial at Grunewald train station, from where around 10,000 Jews were taken to Nazi labor, concentration and extermination camps on Reichsbahn trains in 1941 and 1942.
A joint lunch and a press conference in the Chancellery are then planned. Netanyahu will later meet Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at Bellevue Palace.
Demonstration at the Brandenburg Gate announced
Because of the visit, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians in Berlin must expect significant restrictions. The Berlin traffic information center said the areas around the Federal Chancellery and Bellevue Palace were particularly affected. Restrictions also apply to air traffic throughout Berlin and the surrounding area, according to the police.
More than 3000 police officers will secure the visit, which will be accompanied by several demonstrations. They are primarily directed against the judicial reform planned by Netanyahu's right-wing religious government, against which there have been regular large-scale demonstrations in Israel for weeks. The Israeli parliament should be able to overturn decisions of the highest court. Critics see this as a threat to the separation of powers. The largest rally is registered with 1000 participants at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The radical left scene also mobilized against the visit.
A few days ago, Federal President Steinmeier criticized the judicial reform in an unusually clear manner. The government's planned "restructuring of the rule of law" in Israel is causing concern - "precisely because we Germans have always looked with great admiration at the strong and vibrant rule of law in Israel," he said last Friday at a reception in Berlin. Steinmeier emphasized that he was in regular contact with his counterpart Izchak Herzog and relied on his "balancing voice" in the Israeli debate.
Herzog: "I heard real hate"
Shortly before Netanyahu's departure, Herzog proposed a compromise in the bitter dispute on Wednesday evening, which should strengthen parliament and government and ensure an independent judiciary. While the opposition signaled a willingness to talk, Netanyahu rejected the move. He only cements the current situation and does not bring any compensation, he said after media reports.
Herzog said he spoke to thousands of people on both sides over the past few weeks. "I've heard real hate," he warned. "Anyone who believes that a real fratricidal war is a limit that we will not reach has no idea. We are on the brink."
Artists and academics called for the visit to be canceled
It is eagerly awaited how Scholz will deal with the reform during the visit. Around 1,000 Israeli artists, writers and academics had written to the German ambassador demanding a refusal. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that they wrote that Israel was in the worst crisis in its history and was "on the way from a vibrant democracy to a theocratic dictatorship".
Netanyahu left for Berlin several hours late on Wednesday evening and will leave earlier than planned tonight. According to Israeli media reports, a bomb explosion on Monday in northern Israel is said to be the reason. A news blackout had been imposed on the backgrounds.
Netanyahu wants to promote alliance against Iran
For Netanyahu, the focus of the trip is promoting an alliance against Iran. Before leaving, his office said that the prime minister wanted to emphasize in Berlin "that Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons."
Since taking office in November, Netanyahu has visited neighboring Jordan, as well as France and Italy. Netanyahu has still not received an invitation from the United States - Israel's traditionally closest ally. This is taken as a sign that the US government is not happy with the new administration's policies.