(photo credit: REUTERS)
Foreign Ministry Director- General Dore Gold will travel to Berlin on Tuesday for a political dialogue with his German counterparts taking place just days after a report in Der Spiegel said there were significant voices in Germany’s foreign policy establishment calling for a reassessment of that country’s traditional support for Israel.
During Gold’s two-day visit, he is scheduled to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief foreign policy adviser, Christoph Heusgen. He could also meet with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
On Thursday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, he will speak at a memorial service at Bergen-Belsen.
Gold’s visit and meetings were planned far in advance and are not connected with the Der Spiegel report, which triggered denials from both Jerusalem and Berlin.
According to the story – the latest in a number of articles that have emerged in recent years about tensions between Merkel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – there are voices in the German Chancellery and Foreign Ministry calling for a rethinking of Berlin’s relationship with Israel because of the latter’s settlement policy and what is perceived as Netanyahu’s disinclination to move on the Palestinian issue.
Germany has consistently been one of Israel’s strongest allies inside the 28-member European Union, and Merkel famously said in a Knesset speech in 2008 that Germany’s “special historical responsibility for Israel’s security” is part of her country’s “raison d’etre.”
Yet Der Spiegel quoted Rolf Mützenich, deputy floor leader for the Social Democrats (SPD) in the Bundestag, as saying: “The perception has been growing in the German government that Netanyahu is instrumentalizing our friendship.”
The SDP is the party of Steinmeier, and a junior member of Merkel’s coalition.
Norbert Röttgen, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, was quoted as saying: “Israel’s current policies are not contributing to the country remaining Jewish and democratic. We must express this concern more clearly to Israel.”
A senior Israeli official quickly downplayed the report, saying the two countries remained very close and attributing the story to internal domestic politics seeking to attack Merkel for “her close relationship” with Netanyahu.
A day later, Reuters quoted a German official as denying the report, saying that “the guidelines of German Middle East policy have not changed.”
The issue is expected to be raised during Gold’s meetings.