Despite Disagreement, Netanyahu and Merkel Reemphasize Close Ties Between Two Countries
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Thursday and came to terms on the contentious issue of Israel’s recent Jerusalem development plans. “We agreed that we disagree on this,” Merkel said, referring to Israel’s recent announcement that it had moved forward with plans to build in the disputed E1 area east of Jerusalem.
Netanyahu gave no indication that Israel would reverse its decision, noting that “successive governments from Yitzhak Rabin on down to my predecessor, Mr. (Ehud) Olmert, have also said this would be incorporated in a final peace treaty.”
“The curious thing is that most governments who have looked at these suggestions, these proposals over the years, including the Palestinians themselves as revealed in leaked documents, understand that these blocs, these arrangements are going to be part of Israel in a final political settlement of peace. So I have not changed the policy. This is a consistent policy,” Netanyahu continued.
Netanyahu also dismissed the matter of deepening tensions with Europe over settlements. “There is obviously a difference of view in Europe on the issue of settlements because most Europeans believe that the issue, the root cause of our conflict with the Palestinians is the settlements,” Netanyahu said. “The attempt to wipe out the Jewish state was conducted from 1920 to 1967, 47 years, when there wasn’t a single Israeli settlement or a single Israeli soldier in the West Bank or in Gaza. Having departed these territories, for example from Gaza, the attacks continue on Israel. Why?”
Despite reports of a diplomatic row between the two countries, spurred by Germany’s abstention during last week’s PA upgrade bid, the two leaders projected nothing but admiration for one another. “Germany, under your leadership, has been a true friend of the State of Israel; its efforts for Israel’s security are deserving of all esteem. We will continue to maintain and tighten the deep relations between us,” Netanyahu said.
In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt published on Wednesday, Netanyahu said that he “was disappointed, as were many people in Israel, by the German vote in the U.N.” on Palestinian statehood, the Associated Press reported.
“I took note of this,” Merkel said. “We did not take the vote, and our position, lightly. We are against unilateral measures, so we didn’t vote yes — that was very carefully considered. On the other hand, there is a certain amount of movement on the recognition of two states, which at many points in time we didn’t have with the Palestinians.”
“We in Germany believe the work on a two-state solution must be continued … we must keep trying to come to negotiations and one-sided moves should be avoided,” she added, according to the Associated Press.
As for Israel’s security, according to Der Spiegel, Merkel said that guaranteeing safe borders for Israel is part of Germany’s raison d’etre.