(photo credit: AP [file])
There is no firm date for a joint cabinet meeting between Israeli and German ministers, a German government spokesman said this week.
He was responding to a report in Spiegel Online that claimed German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union party had postponed a planned June 9 meeting because of the right-leaning government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The Merkel administration pledged during a visit to Israel last March, celebrating the the Jewish state's 60th anniversary, to hold annual meetings between the two cabinets.
When asked about the joint cabinet meeting, however, a German government spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the joint session had "not been postponed or agreed upon."
The spokesman, who declined to be named because he was not the designated spokesman for the Merkel administration, denied the Spiegel report and said a joint German-Israeli cabinet meeting could occur before the summer break.
While not formally refusing to meet with the new Israeli government, Merkel delayed the meetings in her telephone conversation with Netanyahu, according to Spiegel.
Merkel's official spokesman Thomas Steg said on Friday that "the Chancellor agreed with Benjamin Netanyahu that, indeed, a cabinet consultation will occur this year. Because of the formation of a new government at this time in Israel, however, it is unlikely that such a meeting, a joint cabinet meeting, will still take place before the summer break."
Ilan Mor, the chargÃ© d'affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Berlin, told the Post on Monday that in the "good tradition of the Merkel administration, efforts will be made as fast as possible to give priority" to convene a joint cabinet meeting.
Meanwhile, conflicting reports on diplomatic tensions between Germany and Israel swirled around Social Democratic Party Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who sent a letter with an "admonition" to his new Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman. Steinmeier, according to Spiegel, exhorted Lieberman to maintain the "momentum of the peace process," and in a break from diplomatic protocol, did not propose a meeting date with him.
Asked about the German media report, a German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman who declined to be named because of German press council rules told the Post that "there was no admonition" in the letter to Lieberman. The spokeswoman would not furnish the Post with a copy of the letter.
While terming the report "speculation" about Steinmeier's alleged rebuke of Lieberman, the spokeswoman stressed that Steinmeier had "made his position clear like Chancellor Merkel" that "there is no alternative to the two-state solution."
A meeting is not planned between Steinmeier and Lieberman, according to the spokeswoman, who added that the Foreign Ministry's letter contained an affirmation of "Israel's right to exist."