Merkel: Bad Iran deal better than no deal

In special Independence Day interview, the German chancellor discusses antisemitism, Mideast peace and Berlin's pledge to maintain Israel's national security.

April 22, 2018 20:00
3 minute read.
Angela Merkel gestures during a cabinet meeting in Berlin

Angela Merkel gestures during a cabinet meeting in Berlin. (photo credit: HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS)


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“I can understand the great concern in Israel about what Iran is doing. We just have different opinions over the question of how best to eradicate the threat,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an interview aired Sunday on Channel 10 News.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes that the agreement between the West and Iran does not provide the security that he would like for Israel. We are of the opinion that the existing framework, though not perfect, is preferable to having no agreement at all,” she said. “We will continue to discuss this. Germany will be very careful to ensure that the [P5+1] agreement is honored.”

Merkel said Tehran merely abiding by the nuclear deal does not take care of all the concerns. “We are very concerned about Iran’s ballistic missile program,” she said. “That’s why we are having discussions, also with Britain, France and the United States on this issue.”

When asked about Berlin’s decision not to take part in the American-British-French attack a week ago in Syria, in response to the Assad regime using chemical gas against its own people, Merkel said that while she recognized the significance of maintaining the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was established in the wake of World War I, Germany had other roles as part of what she referred to as the “Western union.”

“We have a division of labor,” Merkel said. “There are things that countries like France, Britain and the US are doing, as in this case. There are other things in which the US or other countries rely on us to do, things like staying in Afghanistan, for example, or that we take responsibility in Mali... We said that this operation was both necessary and proportionate.”

In a rare reference to the so-called “submarines affair,” an ongoing investigation into possible corruption in Israeli military procurement from Germany, Merkel said: “This is a question that needs to be investigated in Israel, and they are looking into it. Israel is a state of law and it will provide the necessary answers.”

“What’s important is the issue of Germany’s motivation to support Israel by supplying it with advanced submarines,” she said. “It is a long tradition that didn’t start during my term, but began with my predecessors. It is a tradition of commitment to the security of Israel. We believe these submarines are a concrete contribution to this, everything else must be clarified in Israel itself.”

Touching on the rise of antisemitism in Europe in general and in Germany in particular, Merkel said she felt burdened by the fact that her country has not yet managed to completely wipe out antisemitism and warned of an increase in antisemitism as a result of the massive influx of immigrants to Germany, many of whom arrived from the Middle East.

“We have new phenomena, like refugees, or people of Arab origin, who bring with them a different form of antisemitism,” Merkel said. “But unfortunately, antisemitism was also here before. We are sad about the fact that dozens of years after the establishment of the Federal Republic there is no Jewish kindergarten, no school and no synagogue that doesn’t have police protection.”

When asked whether she will follow the lead of US President Donald Trump and announce the transfer of the German Embassy to Jerusalem, she said: “I think we should continue to work towards a two-state solution despite the great difficulty and rare successes. The status of Jerusalem can only be determined in this context. Therefore, we are not transferring the embassy to Jerusalem. We want a Jewish and democratic Israel, but we also want a viable state for the Palestinians.”

When asked whether Jerusalem would be the capital of a future Palestinian state, Merkel said: “This is precisely what we need to negotiate, that’s exactly the difficulty, and I would like for political talks on this matter to take place.”

At the end of the Channel 10 interview, Merkel unveiled plans to visit Israel in the coming months.

“It has been a long time since I was in Israel and I plan to be back sometime in the second half of this year,” she said.

Merkel concluded by congratulating Israel and its citizens on the occasion of its 70th birthday.

“Israel is a country where the founding fathers made huge achievements, and the citizens of today continue to do so,” she said.

“Israel’s security is constantly threatened, and therefore I have repeatedly emphasized, also because of the continuing responsibility we have in the wake of the Holocaust, that Israel’s security is part of Germany’s national interest.”

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