Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel-German ties remain very close and healthy, and reports to the contrary are the result of internal German domestic politics, a senior Israeli official said Saturday night.
The official was responding to a story in the German weekly Der Spiegel under the headline: “Skepticism of German-Israeli Friendship Growing in Berlin.”
According to the story – the latest in a number of articles that have emerged in recent years of tension between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – there are voices in the German Chancellery and the Foreign Ministry calling for a rethinking of Berlin’s relationship with Israel because of its 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 EU.
“The perception has been growing in the German government that Netanyahu is instrumentalizing our friendship,” the magazine quoted Rolf Mützenich, deputy floor leader for the Social Democrats (SPD) in parliament, as saying.
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.”
However, according to the senior Israeli official, “The relations between Israel and Germany are, and will continue to be, close and good.
It seems these statements are an internal German attempt to attack Merkel for her close relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
According to Der Spiegel, Merkel’s advisers were furious in February when Israel Hayom headlined a story about Netanyahu’s visit to Berlin at the time with the headline: “Merkel: This Isn’t the Time for Two States.”
The magazine said Netanyahu had “apparently twisted her words to such a degree that it seemed as though she were supporting his policies. In fact, though, Merkel had repeatedly made it clear to Netanyahu that she believes the effects of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territories are disastrous. The settlement policy, she believes, makes it unlikely that a viable Palestinian state can be established in accordance with plans aimed at a twostate solution.”
During a public press conference, however, Merkel seemed to be agreeing with Netanyahu’s pessimistic prognosis of the peace process, acknowledging that this is not the time for comprehensive progress.
“We in the EU and in Germany are trying to see things realistically,” Merkel said, when asked whether, following the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East, it “wasn’t time to admit that Palestinian terrorism has nothing to do with settlements and the so-called ‘occupation.’” “We recognize the terrorism threat that Israel must face, and on the other hand we want to promote a process of living together in peace, based on two states for two peoples,” she said.
Merkel said she discussed with Netanyahu possible future steps during their meeting. Though acknowledging that “this is not the time for progress,” she said it is possible to “improve things in certain areas,” and that Germany in particular would help in areas of economic development.