Merkel, PM 'agree to disagree' on settlements

German chancellor warns Netanyahu against 1-sided moves; 2 "agree to disagree" on plans to build in E1 corridor.

Merkel and PM 370 (photo credit: GPO)
Merkel and PM 370
(photo credit: GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday that actual construction in the controversial E1 corridor between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim will not take place for years.
Israel’s announcement to further plans there was in direct response to the Palestinian Authority undercutting the Oslo Accords with its recent bid at the UN, he added.
Netanyahu said one of the foundations of the accords was that disagreements would be settled through negotiations, not unilateral action.
The prime minister told Merkel that if negotiations with the Palestinians move forward, the construction would take place as part of a final agreement – since in all previous understandings, everyone understood that area was to remain under Israeli control.
Netanyahu, during a press conference with Merkel, described E1 as a “small corridor” between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim.
“Successive governments from Yitzhak Rabin on down to my predecessor, Mr. [Ehud] Olmert, have also said that this will be incorporated in a final peace treaty between Israel,” Netanyahu said. “The curious thing is that most governments who have looked at these suggestions, these proposals over the years – including the Palestinians themselves as revealed in leaked documents – understand that these blocs, these arrangements are going to be part of Israel in a final political settlement of peace.”
“So I have not changed the policy. This is a consistent policy.”
Merkel said that she and Netanyahu, who met for the second time in two days on Thursday, had an “open discussion between friends. Everything was on the table. On the settlement issue we agreed to disagree.”
The German chancellor said they had discussed the E1 issue, and she had expressed her opposition to it.
“We in Germany believe the work on a two-state solution must be continued... we must keep trying to come to negotiations and one-sided moves should be avoided,” she added.”
At the press conference, Netanyahu disputed the notion that Israel had effectively “lost Europe” after the Palestinian vote at the UN, where 14 EU states voted to upgrade the Palestinian status, 12 – including Germany – abstained, and only the Czech Republic voted against.
“I don’t think we lost Europe when we had virtually universal support for our defensive operation in Gaza against the rocketing of our civilians by Palestinian terrorists,” he said.
“There is obviously a difference of view in Europe on the issue of settlements because most Europeans believe that the issue, the root cause of our conflict with the Palestinians, is the settlements.
“The settlements issue is one that has to be resolved in negotiations, but it is not the root cause of our conflict, because this conflict was waged from the areas adjacent to Israel for 50 years before there was a single settlement.” Netanyahu said he has not given up on the diplomatic process with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and proof of that was his presence in Berlin and his work with Merkel on seeing how to possibly advance a “realistic peace.”
Netanyahu, who met for some three-and-a-half hours with Merkel Wednesday night and then held a working meeting with her Thursday morning, praised her and Germany for their support.
“I know, and I heard it again yesterday and today, how important to you is the relationship between Israel and Germany,” he said. “You said it’s not just another relationship; it’s a special relationship and it’s deeply felt that you deeply feel it.”
The prime minister said he had “no doubt whatsoever about the depth of your commitment to Israel’s security and to the well-being of the Jewish state.”
In addition to the settlements and the Palestinian issue, Netanyahu said he and Merkel discussed the changing Middle East, Iran and the need “to ensure that Syria’s stock of chemical weapons is not used or does not fall into the wrong hands.”
Before leaving Germany, Netanyahu went to Platform 17 at Berlin’s Grunewald Station where some 55,000 Jews were deported to concentration camps during the Holocaust.
“Over our history, the attacks have always come in two waves,” Netanyahu said, noting that the better known “wave” included physical assaults, expulsions, pogroms and murders.
“But there was always a prior wave of blood libels and terrible defamations against the Jewish people,” he added. “Our people were helpless against these two elements, but today we have established a state of our own,” he said. “The IDF and the security forces defend our people from those who would try to destroy us, and the government of Israel, like all of its predecessors, tells the truth of Israel to the nations of the world.”
Netanyahu’s visit to Germany was within the framework of the annual joint cabinet meetings the two countries hold. He was accompanied by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Agriculture Minister Orit Noked, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, all of whom held meetings with their counterparts as well.