German minister tells Israeli counterpart Berlin concerned over judicial overhaul

Visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says she discussed Berlin’s concerns about changes to Israel’s judiciary with counterpart Eli Cohen.

“The values that link us includes the protection of legal principles and the rule of law, like an independent judiciary,” she says alongside Cohen.

“We in Germany, the German government, are firmly convinced that a strong democracy needs an independent judiciary that can also review majority decisions,” she adds.

Cohen says Israel is a “vibrant democracy,” pointing to free speech rights and the  mass protests, which are not threatened by the overhaul. He claims the “judicial reform will strengthen Israeli democracy.”

Cohen also says Israel’s support for Ukraine is clear, rebuffing complaints that Jerusalem is balancing such support against its ties with Moscow and noting the recent promises of aid and his own visit to Kyiv.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, right, and her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen, left, brief the media after a meeting at the foreign ministry in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. (AP/Markus Schreiber)

Pressed on Israel’s choices of verbiage, he says “of course we condemn the Russian aggression,” but notes Jerusalem’s “unique position.”

“We are not like your country. Russia is a pivot[al] player in our region, also in Syria. So I think we are doing the maximum in all aspects,” he says.

Baerbock also expresses support for stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but says diplomacy is the only way to do so.

“Any alternative would have a devastating effect on all of us,” she says.

Cohen urges Germany to pressure the Palestinian Authority to cease payments to convicted terrorists and their families.

“The Palestinian Authority is the only place in the world where you receive a payment if you kill a Jewish guy,” he says.

He adds that Israel will not stop building in the settlements.

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