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Netanyahu heading to Berlin to meet German chancellor, president

Anti-reform activists vow to disrupt the prime minister's departure from Ben-Gurion Airport.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presenting part of a drone shot down during a meeting with Germany's foreign minister in Tel Aviv on May 20, 2021. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presenting part of a drone shot down during a meeting with Germany's foreign minister in Tel Aviv on May 20, 2021. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will yet again need to bypass protesters in order to depart for a diplomatic trip from Ben-Gurion Airport. Last week the destination was Rome and on Wednesday it is Berlin.

Opponents of the government’s overhaul of the judicial branch plan to block traffic at the country’s main international gateway in an effort to disrupt Netanyahu’s afternoon flight to Germany. He had to take a helicopter to get to his plane to Italy last Thursday for a meeting with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in the German capital for a two-day state visit, where he will meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday for the first time since Netanyahu retook the premiership following November’s national election.

Scholz assumed office in December 2021, succeeding Angela Merkel.

The talks in Berlin are expected to focus on countering Iran, with Netanyahu asking Scholz to urge the E.U. to apply more sanctions on the regime in Tehran. Netanyahu is also expected to voice Israel’s opposition to a renewed nuclear deal.

Netanyahu will also meet with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The visit to Berlin will open with a memorial service for the victims of the Holocaust at Platform 17, with the participation of Netanyahu and Scholz.

Platform 17 is a memorial at Grunewald Station commemorating the thousands of Jews deported on Deutsche Reichsbahn trains from the terminal.

Berlin is home to a large Israeli ex-pat community and protests against the Netanyahu government are expected during his visit. The German government has also expressed skepticism about the judicial reforms, with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Steinmeier both publicly voicing their concerns.

“The plan to reorganize the rule of law on the part of the government in Israel worries me,” Steinmeier said last week at a reception in Berlin marking the 50th anniversary of the University of Haifa.

On Tuesday, the European Parliament held a one-hour debate on the “Deterioration of democracy in Israel and consequences on the occupied territories,” despite Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen earlier calling on E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to ask Brussels to stop interfering in Israeli domestic matters.

Netanyahu on Sunday accused the political opposition of trying to overthrow his government and vowed to continue pressing ahead with its judicial reform program.

Last month, Cohen visited Germany for diplomatic meetings aimed at countering the Iranian nuclear threat.

“This is the time to take steps, this is the time to take action to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” said Cohen during a press conference with Baerbock.

“I also ask [Germany] to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. In Germany first, and then to extend this designation across Europe,” added Cohen.

His comments came after the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in a report that its inspectors found uranium enriched to 83.7% purity at Iran’s underground nuclear site in Fordow

Netanyahu is planning to further press Israel’s case during a trip later this month to London to meet with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. In February, the Israeli premier traveled to Paris to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron.

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