Germany defends ambassador after Israeli complaint – DW – 09/18/2023 / German News

The German Foreign Ministry and chancellor on Monday defended Berlin’s ambassador to Israel after a complaint was lodged via Israel’s embassy in Berlin against the diplomat.

Israel considered it as interference in internal affairs when German Ambassador Steffen Seibert attended a Supreme Court session in Jerusalem as a spectator last Tuesday.

The complaint from Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was reportedly through the Israeli ambassador in Berlin, Ron Prosor. 

The issue was first reported in Israeli media, but the spokeswoman for Israel’s Berlin embassy later told DW:

“Following a directive by Minister Cohen, a senior official spoke to Ambassador Seibert and voiced our protest on the matter. Similar messages were conveyed by the embassy in Berlin to the German Foreign Ministry,” she said. 

Israel Supreme Court hears judicial reform challenge

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What did Germany say? 

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman had told DW earlier on Monday that the ministry had not received any official complaints directly from Israel’s Foreign Ministry regarding Seibert’s presence at Israel’s Supreme Court.

The ministry also defended Seibert against criticism from Israel. “Following relevant political procedures, especially when they are public, is a completely normal part of the work of every diplomat,” a spokesman said in response to a DW query.

He added that Seibert attending such an event was “a quite excellent example of common diplomatic practice.” 

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, meanwhile, defended Seibert’s character when asked about the issue on Monday in Berlin.

“The German ambassador is a very committed man with very clear principles. And I believe that everyone knows that — also in Israel,” Scholz said.

Why did Seibert visit the Supreme Court?

Israel’s Supreme Court had dealt with a highly controversial judicial shake-up by the right-wing religious government in a historic court hearing on Tuesday. For the first time in the country’s history, all 15 judges came together to deliberate on eight petitions against an amendment to the Basic Law that had been passed.

Seibert, who attended the session as a spectator, posted on X that the Israeli Supreme Court was “the place to be this morning.” At the end of the nearly 14-hour session, presiding judge Esther Chajut granted a period of 21 days to submit amendments.

In a video posted on X, Seibert said in Hebrew, “I think something important is happening here for Israeli democracy, and we, as friends of Israel, are also looking with a lot of interest towards the Supreme Court, and I wanted to see for myself.”

Seibert is probably best known, in Germany and abroad, for the several years he spent as former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s press spokesman before becoming a diplomat. 

dh/msh (AFP, dpa)

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