Germany has no plans to change Israel policy, Merkel reassures Netanyahu

Netanyahu and Merkel spoke Wednesday to clear the air after media reports that Berlin was considering re-evaluating its ties with Israel because of frustration with the Netanyahu government.

May 5, 2016 05:34
4 minute read.
Netanyahu Berlin

Netanyahu (L) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel address a news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 16, 2016. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke Wednesday to clear the air after media reports claimed that Berlin was considering re-evaluating its ties with Israel because of frustration with the Netanyahu government.

Merkel assured the Israeli premier that Berlin has no intention of altering its policies despite a recent report in Der Spiegel indicating that officials in the Chancellery and the Foreign Ministry were advocating a harder line against Jerusalem over its actions beyond the Green Line.

German government spokesman Steffan Seibert and Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said at their daily press briefing that Germany’s position regarding its solidarity with Israel and its commitment to Israel’s security has not changed, nor did the government’s viewpoint change that the two-state solution is the “only possible option.”

Foreign Ministry Director- General Dore Gold, who has spent the last two days in talks with his counterparts in Germany, told The Jerusalem Post there is no basis to reports that Germany wants to reassess the nature of its ties with Israel.

Gold met with Merkel’s chief foreign policy adviser, Christoph Heusgen, as well as with senior Foreign Ministry officials, and said he found no evidence to support a report in Der Spiegel Saturday that influential voices in the German foreign policy establishment were calling for a reassessment of that country’s traditional support for Israel because of the Jerusalem’s settlement policy and what is perceived as Netanyahu’s disinclination to move on the Palestinian issue.

“I found no foundation whatsoever for that sentiment,” Gold said.

Gold said that although the Der Spiegel claims were discussed, they were not the focus of the talks.

One issue that was raised was the French peace initiative, which includes an international summit without Israeli or Palestinians participation at the end of the month, followed by an international peace conference in the second part of the year.

Gold expressed Israel’s opposition to the idea, saying Israel wanted direct negotiations, and it was important not to give the Palestinians an “escape route” so they don’t have to sit down directly with Israel.

Gold distributed to his interlocutors a German translation of a February article he wrote in Le Monde where he said that “history has shown that the only path to a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of direct negotiations between the parties themselves.”

The most likely outcome of an international conference, he wrote, was that the parties would negotiate at the conference, not each other.

If Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas perceives that Israel is about to face new European pressure, he wrote, then he will not feel compelled to conclude a peace agreement with Israel. An international conference, he said, “is the fastest way for outside powers to destroy the peace process.”

Another issue that was discussed was recent Iranian missile tests, and Tehran’s exploration of missiles of greater range and capabilities.

Gold also discussed Iran’s missiles during a speech he delivered at Bergen-Belsen, the concentration camp in northwestern Germany where his mother- in-law, Dina Sherman, was relocated to from Auschwitz.

Her sister, he said, “died in her arms in this place.”

“In present times, there is a new anti-Semitic wind blowing across Europe, reviving memories of what transpired on this continent decades ago,” Gold said. “And even the physical threat to the Jewish people remains, emanating most recently from the Islamic Republic of Iran. It parades nearly every year a missile in Tehran, called the Shahab-3, and fastens to its launcher the words, ‘Israel must be wiped off the map.’” Gold said that Iran’s leaders were not leaving any doubt about what their missiles were intended for, and noted that the IAEA reported already in 2011 that the country wanted to replace the conventional warhead on this missile with a “spherical nuclear payload.”

Mentioning that the “Israel must be wiped off the map” slogan was this year written in both Farsi and Hebrew on the more advanced Qadr-H missile, he said this was done despite the nuclear agreement signed last year between the Islamic Republic and the world powers.

“It is therefore no wonder that Israel feels it must do everything in its power to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” he said. “This is not an obsession but a sacred trust handed to us by the people buried here.”

The legacy from Bergen-Belsen for Israel and the Jewish people “is not only a particularistic imperative,” he said, noting that Jewish judges and jurists have since the end of World War II stood at the forefront of the international struggle against genocide.

“Despite these and similar legal efforts, genocide has persisted since the Second World War: in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and across the Middle East. Israel is a small state,” he said. “But Israeli diplomacy must do everything in its power to recognize the warning signs and the threats of genocide and then to mobilize and press states to prevent it. That is an enormous responsibility, but as the survivors of the greatest crime in human history, we must bear that burden and undertake to banish this threat from the family of nations.”

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