German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed concern over the judicial reforms proposed by the Israeli government at an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the University of Haifa, held in the President's Bellevue Palace in Berlin.
After commending the university for being a symbol of the "dream for a better, more peaceful world," he said that the current violence and hate in the country are very concerning.
Rare criticism by a German president
"We are also concerned about the planned restructuring of the rule of law - especially because we Germans always greatly admired the strong and vibrant rule of law in Israel. Precisely because we know how necessary this strong and vibrant rule of law is in the region," Steinmeier said.
"I am also in regular contact with my friend and presidential colleague Isaac Herzog and I am counting on his smart and balancing voice in the Israeli debate," he added.
He concluded his remarks commenting on the judicial reforms by saying: "Those who work toward understanding and calmness, toward dialogue, deserve all our support - so that the dream that the University of Haifa is working for can actually come true one day."
These comments are very rare for German presidents, who usually stay above daily politics and rarely criticize other countries, especially friendly countries like Israel, German newspaper FAZ commented.
The rest of Steinmeier's speech concentrated on the anniversary of Haifa University which he called a "laboratory for peaceful coexistence" and a "symbol for a liberal, diverse Israel which is open to the world," especially stressing the fact that a fifth of the students are Arab and the excellent education young Arab women are receiving there.
He closed his remarks by calling on the university's sponsors to continue their work for this German-Israeli project of friendship and peace.