Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went on the offensive in the heart of Europe
on Wednesday, saying the EU was rewarding the Palestinians for tearing up the
Oslo Accords, the argument that building in E1 breaks up Palestinian territorial
contiguity is wrong, and Europeans have a history of first vilifying Jews, then
Netanyahu’s comments were made in an extensive interview
with the German Die Welt newspaper published online just before his meeting in
Berlin with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Germany, which strongly backed
Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense last month, disappointed Jerusalem by
abstaining in the UN vote last week to upgrade the Palestinians’ status to that
of non-member observer state.
Berlin, like most of Europe, then slammed
Israel for the decision to respond to the UN move by announcing plans to build
3,000 housing units in east Jerusalem and the large settlement blocs, and to
push forward planning of the E1 neighborhood linking Jerusalem to Ma’aleh
Merkel has been a frequent critic of Israel’s settlement
policies, and the chancellor was expected to warn Netanyahu of harm to Israel’s
position in Europe if he continues settlement construction.
Netanyahu and Merkel meeting met for 3 1/2 hours, two hours longer than planned. Netanyahu said after the
meeting that: "From the
conversation it is clear that Chancellor Merkel is a true friend of
Israel whose commitment to Israel's security is genuine and
unconditional. This was an open and comprehensive discussion on all the
issues in the Middle East."
The two leaders first met privately, and were then joined by their close aides.
appreciated the support of Chancellor Merkel and the German government during
the operation in Gaza,” Netanyahu told Die Welt earlier Wednesday. “At the same time, I would be
disingenuous if I didn’t tell you that I was disappointed, as were many people
in Israel, by the German vote in the UN. I think that people understand that
there is a special relationship between Germany and Israel.”
said Merkel believed the UN vote “would somehow advance peace.”
said, “in fact the opposite happened because, in the aftermath of the UN
resolution, we see that the Palestinian Authority under President [Mahmoud]
Abbas is moving to unite with the Hamas terrorists.
“The resolution did
not call for recognizing the Jewish state or ending the conflict with us or
having security safeguards. It has encouraged the Palestinians, actually, to
toughen their position and not to enter negotiations,” the prime minister
By going to the UN, “the Palestinians tore to shreds their
commitments under the Oslo Accord,” Netanyahu said. This, he bewailed, was
“somehow dismissed,” while “our response, which is measured and certainly less
than proportional, is blown out sky high.
“That’s neither fair nor
judicious, because it doesn’t bring peace closer,” the prime minister said. “It
pushes it back. It hardens the Palestinians’ positions and it tells us something
very, very disturbing.
It says there’s no value to making
agreements for peace, because when the other side side violates it,
nobody will hold them accountable.”
Netanyahu, the Palestinians “want a Palestinian state without peace.”
said the European governments who voted for the resolution were telling the
Palestinians “you can get international recognition and international legitimacy
without making the necessary compromises for peace. For there to be peace, both
sides need to compromise. Both sides need to recognize each other, not
Netanyahu dismissed the conventional wisdom in Europe that
building in E1 will essentially block a possible two-state deal by blocking
Palestinian territorial contiguity.
“Look, they’re talking about a
Palestinian state between Gaza and the West Bank and there’s no continuum
Here, we’re talking about an area that is one mile, two miles
wide, that connects Jerusalem to a suburb that in all peace plans will remain
part of the State of Israel in any agreement,” he said.
that every prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin has planned on incorporating into
Israel the mile-long E1 corridor from Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim as part of a
final peace agreement.
“All governments talked about the possibility of
putting tunnels, bridges, roads there to facilitate Palestinian movement, so to
say that this will jeopardize the possibility of a Palestinian state is neither
true nor responsible,” he stressed.
The prime minister also made clear
that at this point the government has only advanced planning on E1, not actual
“We shall act further based on what the Palestinians do. If
they don’t act unilaterally, then we won’t have any purpose to do so either,” he
On Wednesday, the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria
approved deposit of a 3,500-apartment project in E1.
Merkel is expected
to press Netanyahu to shelve the plan.
Netanyahu arrived in Berlin
following a four-hour visit to Prague, where he warmly thanked Czech Prime
Minister Petr Necas for voting against the statehood upgrade for the
Palestinians at the UN.
“History has shown us time and again that what is
right is not what is popular, and if there is a people in the world who can
appreciate that, it’s the people of your country,” Netanyahu said at a press
conference with Necas.
In 1938, the leading powers of the world forced
Czechoslovakia to sacrifice its vital interests at Munich, Netanyahu
“The international community applauded almost uniformly without
exception,” he said. “They hailed this as something that would bring peace,
peace in our time. But rather than bring peace, those forced concessions from
Czechoslovakia paved the way to the worst war in history.”
drew on historical precedents in his Die Welt interview.
“In our history,
including on the soil of Europe, we had a regular pattern,” he said. “First the
Jewish people were maligned, then they were attacked. And the maligning, the
vilification, served as the legitimization for the attacks that followed, and in
many ways this is what is happening to the State of Israel. It is vilified again
and again in public opinion, including in European public opinion, to prepare
the attacks. And people don’t know the facts.”
The prime minister said
there was a disturbing willingness in “some quarters of Europe” to believe the
worst about Israel, adding that this has been part of Jewish history in Europe
for many generations.
“People believed outrageous things about the Jewish
people, as some now believe about the Jewish state,” he said. “What is our great
crime? What is it we’re doing? We’re building in the areas that will remain in a
final peace settlement of Israel. What are we talking about? This is not
some foreign land.
This is the land in which the Jewish people have been
for close to 4,000 years. What we’re talking about are suburbs contiguous to
Netanyahu is scheduled to hold a second meeting with Merkel
on Thursday, and the ministers who accompanied him – Defense Minister Ehud
Barak, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Agriculture Minister Orit Noked, Science
and Culture Minister Daniel Herschkowitz and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny
Ayalon – will meet their counterparts as well.
Among the other issues
high on the agenda of Netanyahu’s talks are the situation in Syria, Iran, and
Israel’s opposition to German arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
related development, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed a Haaretz report that
it intervened to keep Tel Aviv University Prof. Rivka Feldhay, the director of
the university’s Minerva Humanities Center, from participating in a roundtable
discussion with Netanyahu, Merkel and nearly a dozen German and Israeli
Feldhay signed a letter in 2008 by Israeli university faculty
members expressing “appreciation and support” for students and lecturers who
“refuse to serve as soldiers in the occupied territories.”
A source in
Netanyahu’s entourage said the prime minister was unwilling, in a meeting during
which he represents Israel, to allow the participation of someone who blackened
the name of “pilots and soldiers who do everything they can to prevent harming
civilians, while the other side does everything it can to harm
Feldhay, the wife of Mordechai Kremnitzer of the Israel
Democracy Institute, was already in Berlin when she was informed she would not
be allowed to take part. She was originally invited to attend by Israel’s
embassy in Berlin.