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Israel weighs in on German circumcision debate

Israel's president has defended the practice of male circumcision in a letter to his German counterpart. He's the latest high-profile figure to weigh in on a debate over a German court ruling which declared it illegal.

In the letter sent to German President Joachim Gauck on Thursday, President Shimon Peres asked that Germany protect the religious practice.

Circumcision is "a Jewish ritual that has been at the core of Jewish identity for thousands of years and defines the Jewish people, from the time of the first commandment given by God to Abraham," he wrote.

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Circumcision Battle Rages on in Germany

"I am therefore confident, Mr President, that Germany, in keeping with its values, will remain committed to conducting their Jewish religious traditions in freedom," Peres said in the letter quoted by his office.

A court in the western city of Cologne instigated the heated debate back in June when it ruled that child circumcision constituted "illegal bodily harm," even with parental consent. Though surveys showed that the majority of Germans approved of the verdict, it was met with fury by Muslim and Jewish groups around the world.

Controversial decision

The ensuing controversy prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel to voice her support for the practice, warning her Christian Democratic Union party that Germany risked becoming a "laughing stock" over the issue.

The German parliament responded in July, adopting a nonbinding cross-party resolution to protect religious circumcision. The resolution urges the government to draw up legislation that "ensures that the circumcision of boys carried out to medically professional standards and without undue pain is fundamentally permissible."

Germany's ethics committee took a further step towards forging a compromise on Thursday, when the 26-member panel said it supported the practice under certain conditions.

"There must be a green light for circumcision but under the conditions of a full explanation to the parents, the agreement of both parents, the treatment of pain and the professional execution of the circumcision," committee chairwoman Christiane Woopen said.

ccp/lw (AFP, dpa)

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