PMO denies diplomatic rift between Israel, Germany

After Merkel's criticism of Gilo building plans prompts speculation of crisis between countries, PMO says relationship with Germany "good, close."

Netanyahu Merkel 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu Merkel 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Prime Minister's Office on Sunday denied reports that Israel and Germany were in the midst of a diplomatic crisis over Israeli plans to build new housing units in Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood, which lies over the Green Line.
PMO spokesman Ofir Gendelman said via his Twitter feed that "Israel's relationship with Germany and Chancellor [Angela] Merkel are good & close. When there are differences of opinion they are cordially discussed."
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Merkel told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a telephone conversation on Friday that the plans to build 1,100 new units in Gilo raise doubts that his government is interested in starting serious negotiations with the Palestinian leadership.
Her spokesman said it was up to Netanyahu to dispel German doubts as to Israel's willingness to engage the Palestinians.
She reiterated to Netanyahu the Quartet of Middle East mediators' statement  which called on both sides to refrain from making "provocative actions."  
German diplomats responded to the PMO's denial of the diplomatic crisis, reportedly telling Army Radio on Sunday that Netanyahu was trying to "sweep under the rug" very "real tension" between the countries.  According to the report, they added that Merkel was "boiling mad" and that Netanyahu had become a persona non grata in her eyes.
Leaders across Europe have been highly critical of Israel's decision to continue development in Gilo.
EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton condemned the Gilo plan, calling the program "provocative" and urging Israel to "reverse" its decision to build 1,100 new homes over the Green Line.
Netanyahu rejected European and American complaints over the construction in Gilo, saying "Gilo is not a settlement nor an outpost."
"It is a neighborhood in the very heart of Jerusalem, about five minutes from the center of town."
In every peace plan on the table in the past 18 years, Gilo "stays part of Jerusalem and therefore this planning decision in no way contradicts" the current Israel government's desire for peace based on two states for the two peoples, he added.