Unwell PM speaks to Merkel by phone

Unwell PM speaks to Merk

netanyahu at cabinet 248 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
netanyahu at cabinet 248 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After a virus forced Binyamin Netanyahu to cancel his trip to Berlin, the prime minister spoke on the phone Monday evening with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Prime Minister's Office said that in the "warm and friendly" conversation, the two agreed to try and rearrange the trip for mid-January. The PMO added that the two discussed issues currently on the "diplomatic agenda." Earlier Monday, following a second examination, the prime minister's physician, Dr. Tzvi Herman Berkowitz, confirmed that Netanyahu was suffering from a mild seasonal illness, and that rest and basic treatment should alleviate the prime minister's condition. Dr. Berkowitz anticipated that Netanyahu would be able to return to work on Tuesday. Sunday's cancellation came just nine hours before Netanyahu and six other ministers were scheduled to fly to the German capital. Some three hours after he delivered a speech in Eilat to mark the 29th of November, Netanyahu's spokesman Nir Hefetz issued a statement saying that Netanyahu did not feel well and was diagnosed by his doctor as having a viral infection and a low fever. After consultations between the Prime Minister's Office and Merkel's bureau, the decision was made to postpone the visit, which was to include a joint cabinet meeting, until January. The delegation, which in addition to Netanyahu also was to include Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau, Science Minister Daniel Herschkowitz and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, was scheduled to leave at 7 a.m. Monday and return Monday evening. The cabinet's trip was to be a reciprocal one to a visit made here in March 2008 by seven German cabinet ministers. Iran and kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit were expected to be the focus on Netanyahu's meeting with Merkel, and each of the other ministers was to meet separately with their German counterparts. Though Germany suddenly dropped off his agenda, Lieberman is still slated to go to Athens on Tuesday for a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, during which he is scheduled to meet with the foreign ministers of Russia, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and eight other European nations. On Wednesday, Lieberman will travel to Russia for meetings, followed by a visit to Ukraine on Saturday night. All in all, he is scheduled to hold some 20 meetings with heads of state or foreign ministers over the next week. Lieberman's main message, according to his office, will be that Israel has taken significant steps - including last week's declaration of a housing-start moratorium in the settlements - to renew negotiations with the Palestinians, and that the Palestinian Authority's refusal to restart the talks show that their declaration of wanting to reach an agreement with Israel is hollow. In addition, Lieberman is expected to focus on the damage the Goldstone Commission report is causing to the war on terrorism, and the need to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear-weapon capabilities.