Friedrich Merz and his balancing act in Israel
By Philipp Sandmann, Jerusalem
03/22/2023, 10:14 am
German opposition leader Friedrich Merz meets Israeli opposition leader Jair Lapid. A little later, Merz had to inform Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of German concerns about judicial reform in Israel. A ridge that can get pretty narrow, especially in Jerusalem.
Friedrich Merz has often been announced as the “Leader of the Opposition” in the past two days. The CDU leader and Union faction leader was visiting Israel from Monday to Wednesday morning and encountered a country that is not only threatened from the outside, but also from within.
The planned judicial reform, which would enable the current government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to severely limit the decision-making powers of the Supreme Court and possibly even override its decisions, is causing great displeasure among the population. Some representatives from civil society speak of a “dark nightmare”, others of a “constitutional crisis”. For weeks now, people in Israel have been taking to the streets against the government’s planned project.
Merz has to do a balancing act during his visit: On Monday, he will meet Israeli opposition leader Jair Lapid, who will have told Merz his dismay at the current government’s policies. Then on Tuesday a meeting with Netanyahu. Immediately afterwards, the CDU leader said on ntv about the conversation: “I also told him (Netanyahu) our concerns that we have the feeling that a discussion is currently being held here that could in fact call into question the separation of powers in Israel. ”
Merz finds clearer words than Chancellor Olaf Scholz at his meeting in Berlin with Netanyahu last week. But Merz is not the chancellor either. And Merz also showed understanding for the reasons why such a reform is being discussed in the country. One of the reasons for this is that Israel doesn’t have a written constitution: “That’s why I advocate that we don’t break the baton unilaterally, but rather listen to each other about the problems and they are different here in Israel than we know them from Germany .”
In addition, according to Merz, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu “understood very well” the public discussions triggered by the planned judicial reform: “It’s not just limited to Germany, but also to the United States of America. Many European countries are concerned about the expressed and that is heard here in Israel and, in my opinion, taken seriously.”
Merz said he also spoke “very intensively” to Netanyahu about the threat to Iran. This was also a crucial topic in the talks with the Israeli President Herzog.
German soldiers at Heron TP
Merz had already visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Tuesday morning and, in the presence of Dani Dayan, Chairman of Yad Vashem, said: “We will always remember the victims of the Shoah and their families. Germany’s responsibility will always remain.”
The visit to the Tel Nof military airfield, the main airfield of the Israeli Air Force, showed on Tuesday afternoon that the relationship between Israel and Germany is good and that cooperation, especially in the military field, is almost miraculous. Here, German soldiers are being trained on the “Heron TP” drone, which in turn will soon be used in Germany.
In the context of German-Israeli history, the CDU leader emphasized: “I’m really very impressed, both by the technology and even more by the cooperation of the soldiers here. Lots of German and Israeli soldiers together: that’s very impressive. ”
“Traffic light is overreaching”
However, Merz is also catching up with German domestic politics and the debate about electoral reform in Israel. With a view to a list connection between the CDU and CSU brought into play by the traffic light, Merz said on ntv: “What we are now hearing from the traffic light, what they are proposing to us, if that is meant seriously, then I want to say back just as seriously: that is encroaching . It’s not up to traffic lights to decide how the CDU and CSU compete in elections in Germany.”
It is the right of every party to decide that they only want to compete in one federal state. This does not only have to be in Bavaria. “What we’re hearing now is encroaching on the Union and I’m not just telling you this as parliamentary group leader of the joint parliamentary group, I’m also telling you this as party leader of the CDU: completely unacceptable,” said Merz.