Germany, Israel help bring each other’s citizens home

Netanyahu, Merkel discuss cooperation on coronavirus response

Air planes of German carrier Lufthansa are parked at the airport in Frankfurt (photo credit: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH)
Air planes of German carrier Lufthansa are parked at the airport in Frankfurt
Germany and Israel have been working together to bring their citizens back to their respective countries in the wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
Israel turned to many countries to help Israelis return as more places close themselves off to foreigners and international flights.
Germany has been working to bring its citizens home, including chartering special flights. It responded to Israel by instructing its representatives abroad to treat Israelis as they would Germans.
“This is an extraordinary gesture of goodwill that you rarely see between countries,” said Avi Nir, head of the Foreign Ministry Europe Division. “They are helping us in any way they can without any formal agreement.”
Israel has sought to reciprocate and brought one German woman with a group of Israelis evacuated from Bolivia this week.
Israel and Germany have “excellent ties and a great commitment” to each other, Nir said.
The cooperation comes amid frantic efforts by the Foreign Ministry to bring home Israelis from around the world. The ministry estimates it has helped 3,000 Israelis and that there are another 3,000 still abroad who want to return home, a third of whom are in India.
“We will use all diplomatic means we have to bring back Israelis,” Nir said, adding: “This cooperation is because we have good ties with Germany, but it won’t happen everywhere.”
“The World Health Organization said Europe is currently the center of the pandemic,” he said. “They are closing up, and foreign citizens are not going to be their priority. It is not clear that we will succeed everywhere.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday discussed ways their countries could cooperate on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Netanyahu’s office described the conversation as “warm and long” and said the leaders exchanged views on how to handle the crisis.
Merkel and Netanyahu discussed financial and economic cooperation, as well as ways to purchase medical supplies.
They decided that the professionals on both sides would discuss these subjects.
Merkel went into self-quarantine on Sunday after coming into contact with someone who was infected with the coronavirus. She tested negative.
President Reuven Rivlin also has been in touch with his counterparts from around the world in recent days to discuss how they are handling the coronavirus crisis.
On Sunday, Rivlin and King Felipe VI of Spain spoke on the phone. Rivlin sought to demonstrate the solidarity Israelis feel with the Spanish people as they fight the virus. There have been hundreds of fatalities in Spain.
Rivlin’s office said the conversation was “warm and constructive” and that the leaders “expressed messages of deep solidarity and reiterated the close relations and the support which brings the two peoples together.”
Rivlin also spoke with President Igor Dodon of Moldova and Armenian President Armen Sarkissian. The latter asked Rivlin for information about how Israel is battling the spread of the coronavirus. Rivlin ensured that both countries’ health ministries would have follow-up conversations to exchange information.