In strong attack on Israel, German foreign minister says settlements jeopardize peace

In a statement issued to Germany’s largest circulation daily, Bild, after the UN resolution, the Foreign Ministry claimed that “a democratic Israel is only achievable through a two-state-solution.”

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December 30, 2016 02:53
2 minute read.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier attends the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's annual Convocation ceremony. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a staunch proponent of the Iran nuclear deal, has slammed Israel in a series of tweets and statements since last Friday’s Security Council resolution condemning Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.

In a statement issued to Germany’s largest circulation daily, Bild, after the UN resolution, the Foreign Ministry claimed that “a democratic Israel is only achievable through a two-state-solution.”

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The statement prompted the editor-in-chief of Bild’s digital outlet, veteran journalist Julian Reichelt, to express astonishment at the harsh wording.

In response to Reichelt’s criticism, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffan Seibert wrote on his Twitter feed: “Israel is a Jewish democratic state.”

Steinmeier, a Social Democratic politician who is jockeying to be the next president of Germany, later said on Twitter: “Israeli settlements in occupied territories jeopardize possibility of peace process.”

The same English-language tweet was issued again. The flurry of messages attacking Israel appeared on the German- and English-language Twitter feeds of the Berlin-based Foreign Ministry.

Steinmeier also endorsed US Secretary of State John Kerry’s Wednesday speech, writing that the “speech is a warning and a reminder that the #2StateSolution must not become an empty phrase. #MiddleEast.”

The foreign minister added on Twitter that “since he came into office, John Kerry has tirelessly worked toward a peaceful solution for the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict.”

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Steinmeier had lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015 for his “very coarse” criticism of the Iran nuclear deal. Steinmeier, in an unusual attack on an US presidential candidate, slammed Donald Trump as a “hate preacher.”

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, who teaches political studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, “In many ways, the Obama-Kerry perception of the conflict has been shaped by European conventional wisdom. So it is not surprising to see European leaders embracing Kerry’s speech. In Germany, Foreign Minister Steinmeier has been particularly critical of Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu (taking Germany farther away from its post-Holocaust role).”

Steinberg, who is president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, added, “Steinmeier, like powerful German NGOs such as Brot fur die Welt, [‘Bread for the World’] echoes the Palestinian victimization narrative. In addition, Steinmeier’s personal attacks on Netanyahu reflect German eagerness to do business with Iran, which was facilitated by Kerry.”

Writing in the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel on Thursday, Volker Beck, a leading Green Party lawmaker and head of the German-Israel Parliament Group in the Bundestag, said, “No, settlement construction is not the most difficult problem on the way to a two-state solution. It is one of many.”

Beck voiced understanding for the outrage in Israel to the UN resolution. Beck termed the measure “counterproductive,” adding that the decisive factor is the “security question,” because after Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the US- and EU-designated terrorist organization Hamas, which controls the Palestinian enclave, fired many missiles at Israel.

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