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Palestinian Authority officials have accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of "offending the Palestinians' feelings" during her visit earlier this week to Ramallah, where she met with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
The accusations, the first of their kind against a European leader, were made by top PA officials only hours after Merkel and her entourage left Ramallah on Monday.
"She did everything to provoke the Palestinians during her visit," said one official. "She showed no understanding for the plight of our people. On the other hand, she appeared to be very biased toward Israel."
The official claimed that while Merkel refused to meet with families of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, she focused during her talks with Abbas on the need to release kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit, who has been held in the Gaza Strip since last June. In addition, he noted, Merkel met with the families of missing IDF soldiers during her visit to Jerusalem.
At the joint press conference with Abbas, Merkel refused to answer a question about the Palestinian prisoners in Israel, the official added. "She appeared to be obsessed with the case of Gilad Schalit," he said. "But she refused to even acknowledge the fact that we have more than 10,000 prisoners in Israel."
Another PA official described Merkel's visit to Ramallah as "extremely negative and a total disappointment." He revealed that Abbas had originally requested that the meeting take place in Bethlehem, where Christians are celebrating Holy Week.
"We were hoping to show her the wall that Israel built around Bethlehem, but she refused to go there," he said. "President Abbas was hoping to draw parallels between Israel's wall and the Berlin Wall. He wanted to remind Merkel of the days when she lived in East Berlin."
Merkel, according to the official, also turned down a request to meet with church leaders and representatives of Palestinian civil societies. "Almost all the European leaders meet with Christian leaders and representatives of civil societies," he pointed out. "But Merkel refused to do so. She did not offer any explanation and that's why we are very disappointed with her and the German government. This behavior is completely unacceptable."
The Palestinians are also angry with Merkel for visiting the Hebrew University, where she received an honorary doctorate on Sunday, while refusing to tour the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
PA officials were hoping to escort Merkel on a tour of the Arab neighborhoods to show her how Israel was "changing the Arab and Muslim character" of the city.
"This woman is trying to be more Israeli than the Israelis," the official said. "During her talks with President Abbas, she totally ignored major issues related to the peace process and chose to focus on the case of Gilad Schalit.
"Germany will not be able to play any role in the peace process because of the chancellor's bias to Israel. Our people are obviously paying the price for the crimes that were perpetrated against the Jews during World War Two."
In an attempt to avoid a diplomatic crisis between the Palestinians and Germany, a senior official in Abbas's office said the allegations did not represent the official PA line.
"We categorically reject the derogatory remarks made against the German chancellor," said Nimer Hamad, political adviser to Abbas. "We appreciate the ongoing support of Germany to the Palestinians and its efforts to reactivate the role of the Quartet and support for the Arab peace plan that was re-endorsed in Riyadh last week."
In another development, Abbas reiterated on Monday his desire to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert once every two weeks, as agreed during the last visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region.
Abbas's remarks came during a meeting he held in Ramallah with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Abbas briefed Pelosi on the "national unity" agreement with Hamas and called for lifting sanctions imposed on the Palestinians since Hamas came to power, said PA negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Many Palestinian journalists boycotted the meeting, in solidarity with BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, who was kidnapped in the Gaza Strip three weeks ago. Earlier this week, Palestinian journalists announced that they would stop covering the activities of Palestinian leaders for three days to protest the PA's failure to secure the release of Johnston.