Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) during a press conference, October 4, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended Israel's right to protect its northern border against Iranian forces at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday, saying Iran must be kept away from the Golan heights.
She added that Germany wants zero Iranian presence in Syria and viewed Iran as a threat to Israel and a threat to Lebanon. Merkel also stressed that Israel has the right to defend itself and noted that everything must be done to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear capability.
In his address, coming at the tail-end of a two-day visit by the German leader, Netanyahu thanked Merkel and discussed the fruitful collaboration between the countries.
"There are very few economies in the world today that have our capacity," said Netanyahu. "I truly believe that the talents in Israel and Germany are among the greatest in the world."
Netanyahu discussed the threats in the Middle East and the possible future ramifications, and warned against the Iranian regime.
"We are being challenged by forces of radical Islam, primarily by ISIS on one side and Iran on the other," he stated. "It's no secret that I opposed the nuclear deal," said the prime minister, "that put billions of dollars in the hands of the leading sponsors of terrorism."
"The ties with the Arab states are closer than ever." continued Netanyahu, claiming that several Arab countries are collaborating with Israel in a joint front against Iran.
"I'm sorry to say that I don't see this attitude from the Palestinian Authority," continued Netanyahu, touching on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He added that he expects the world to tell the Palestinians to stop what they're dong, particularly "choking" the citizens of Gaza.
"I believe that all nations must join together to oppress the Iranian regime to cease its terror activity and to stop using Syria and Lebanon as bases for attacks against Israel."The United States pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord
, to the chagrin of Merkel and other Western leaders, who have vowed to salvage the deal in some form.
"Iran's aggressive activity also extends to Europe," continued Netanyahu, "Iran had planned terrorist attacks on European soil and no actions were taken. Since my speech, the government of France took action and the government of Germany also arrested one of its diplomats."
Merkel then spoke and too congratulated the ties with Israel, saying that the visit was fruitful. "The cooperation between our two countries is close and has even grown in the last years," she remarked.
On the topic of antisemitism, the German leader expressed her concern about the recent rise of the phenomenon in Germany. "We continue to carry the responsibility for the Holocaust and we will continue fighting it," she emphasized.
Netanyahu also addressed antisemitism and said, "The slanders that were directed against the Jewish people are now directed at the Jewish state. It's just a new form of antisemitism."
Netanyahu noted that Israel is accused of poisoning wells and of horrible acts towards the Arab community. "These outrageous lies are believed by masses but also by people who should know better."
On the topic of the Nation-State law, Merkel expressed her concern that the legislation made her worried about the rights of minorities; however, she added that she supported Israel as a Jewish state and that, in order to reach a peaceful solution, the Palestinians would have to accept it as such.
"We have to encourage the removal of slander and the recognition of the State of Israel, which will always recognize the rights of minorities." responded Netanyahu, adding that Israel is the only Middle East country that protects the rights of minorities.
Earlier in the day, the German leader vowed to prevent a nuclear Iran
as she spoke with Haifa University students in Jerusalem on Thursday morning.
Israel and Germany “share the view that everything must be done to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” Merkel told the students during a question-and-answer session.
Merkel landed in Israel on Wednesday evening, beginning a two-day visit to Israel. The government-to-government visit was delayed by a year and a half due to disagreements regarding Israel's settlement policies and approach to the Palestinians.
Her visit included a dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sarah Netanyahu. Earlier Thursday morning, she visited the official Holocaust memorial site Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and had a working lunch with President Reuven Rivlin.