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Germany: officials defend ambassador to Tel Aviv in face of Israeli criticism 

September 19, 2023 at 12:18 pm

Government spokesman, Steffen Seibert on January 5, 2021 in Berlin, Germany [Andreas Gora/Pool/Getty Images]

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has defended his country’s ambassador to Tel Aviv, Steffen Seibert, in the face of criticism directed at him by the Israeli government.

“He is a very committed man with very clear principles,” Scholz told a journalist in New York on Monday. “I think everyone knows this, even in Israel.”

Israel made a formal protest about Seibert because of his participation as a spectator in a hearing of the Israeli Supreme Court regarding the controversial judicial amendments proposed by the coalition government.

The Embassy of Israel in Berlin responded to a question from the German DPA news agency about this issue. It explained that a high-ranking diplomatic official spoke to Seibert about the complaint, based on instructions from Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen. It added that the German foreign ministry had received “similar messages” verbally.

The ministry had previously denied receiving an official protest from Israel. A ministry spokesman told a federal press conference in Berlin that, “No complaint from Israel had reached the ministry of foreign affairs.”

According to German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, “It is the everyday business of diplomats to monitor developments in foreign countries. It’s also normal to go to public hearings or public court cases; it’s part of [Seibert’s] job.”

Seibert has faced criticism from Israeli officials before, notably after he attended a memorial service for Israeli and Palestinian families as an ordinary citizen. The service honoured their relatives who were killed in the conflict between the two sides, but some far-right demonstrators disrupted the event held in front of the ambassador’s residence in Herzliya in June.

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