The visit of Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) to Israel comes at an explosive time. For weeks, tens of thousands of people have been taking to the streets against a judicial reform planned by Israel's new government.
A few hours after Bushman's arrival in the country on Monday, the parliament in Jerusalem approved part of the comprehensive bill in the first of three readings. At the same time, mass protests broke out again in Jerusalem and other parts of the country.
Disempowerment of the Supreme Court planned
According to plans by the right-wing religious government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the parliament - currently dominated by it - should be able to overturn decisions of the highest court with a simple majority. In addition, politicians should be given more influence in the appointment of judges. The legislative proposal, which includes numerous other far-reaching changes, could also play into Netanyahu's hands in the corruption process currently being carried out against him.
Critics see the democratic separation of powers in danger and warn of a constitutional crisis. The government, on the other hand, argues that the Supreme Court currently wields too much political influence. 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.
Israel's President Izchak Herzog called for dialogue again after the vote. "Prove after yesterday that you have the generosity of winners, find a way to engage in dialogue with the opposition," Herzog said today. There is "a feeling of sadness and not joy, because many citizens from all parts of Israeli society (...) are very afraid for the unity of the people".
Opposition leader Jair Lapid said history would judge members of the government for the vote. "For the damage to democracy, for the damage to the economy, for the damage to security." Several opposition MPs, who described the project as a "coup d'etat," called out "shame, shame" to the plenary during the late-evening session.
Controversial Bushman Journey
Amid these internal tensions, Justice Minister Buschmann arrived in Israel on Monday for a two-day visit. Originally, he was only supposed to open a traveling exhibition dealing with the coming to terms with the Ministry of Justice's Nazi past. Now, however, sensitive political talks were also on the agenda.
On the day of his arrival, he found words of warning - without directly addressing the Israeli government's plans. "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 the opening of the exhibition in Tel Aviv.
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."
Due to the historical responsibility for the Holocaust, Germany has traditionally been rather reluctant to assess Israeli politics. As the "Spiegel" reported, the trip is not considered uncontroversial within the government. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) is said to have initially advised against ministerial trips to Israel - since there is said to be no clear common line on how to deal with the new government in Israel.
No compromise in sight
Bushman's Israeli counterpart, Jariv Levin, is at the center of his government's controversial plans. He has been planning to restructure the judicial system for decades. He was open to dialogue, but at the same time "determined to pass the reform and nothing will stop me," he said after the vote in the Knesset.
A meeting between Levin and Buschmann is planned for the afternoon. In addition, the FDP politician wants to meet with Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara and the President of the Supreme Court, Esther Chajut. Both are considered opponents of Levin.