Israeli PM Netanyahu and German Chancellor Merkel address a news conference.
(photo credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)
A meeting between the governments of Israel and Germany postponed for months because of tensions over settlement construction and the stymied diplomatic process will be held immediately after a new German government is established, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.
Netanyahu relayed this information to his ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting during a briefing he gave them of a call he had Tuesday morning with the newly re-elected Merkel.
The annual Israel-Germany government-to-government meeting was to be held in May, but was postponed, with the formal reason given as scheduling problems. However, German officials leaked to reporters that the true reason had to do with Israel’s settlement policies and sharp differences regarding the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
The government-to-government meetings, which for six years brought together the leaders of the two countries as well as a large number of cabinet ministers to talk about a wide array of issues, were seen as a reflection of the special nature of Israel-German ties.
In recent months, however, there has been increased tension between the nations, reflected in the postponement of May's planned meeting, as well as the brouhaha that erupted in April when Netanyahu refused to meet visiting German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel because he insisted on meeting the far-Left NGO Breaking the Silence.
While Netanyahu has not publicly reacted to the strong showing of the far-right Alternative for Germany party
(AfD) in Sunday’s German elections, he spoke with Merkel about Israeli concerns over the rise in recent years of antisemitism among political elements on the right and the left, as well as the antisemitism from Islamic groups.
Netanyahu said that Israel rejected efforts to deny the Holocaust and deny responsibility for the Holocaust, something he said were “two different things.”
He called on the new government that will be formed in Berlin to work to strengthen those elements in Germany who own up to their historical responsibilities.
One of AfD's leaders, Alexander Gauland, said earlier this month that Germans should no longer be reproached for their Nazi past, and that they should take pride in what German soldiers accomplished during the two world wars.
By contrast, Merkel has said in the past that because of its historical responsibility for the Holocaust, “the security and right of the state of Israel to exist is a fundamental tenet for Germany.”
Netanyahu told his ministers that Merkel is a “true friend of Israel and the Jewish people for many years,” and a “great leader of Germany and Europe.” He said that he congratulated Merkel on her victory, and that Israel is certain that under her leadership, Israel and Germany's special relationship will “deepen and flourish.”