Ahead of Merkel visit, PM talks peace on German TV

Ahead of Merkel visit, PM talks peace on German TV

In interview with ZDF, Netanyahu lauds US Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to engage both sides in negotiations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu giving an inteview for ZDF German television. (screen capture: Channel 10 News)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu giving an inteview for ZDF German television. (screen capture: Channel 10 News)

In advance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s landmark visit to Israel Monday along with her entire cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in an interview with ZDF (Second German Television) his support for US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Israel wants peace, security, stability and prosperity, Netanyahu said, and added he is up to the challenge. “If President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority is equally willing to pursue these goals, then I think Secretary Kerry’s initiative has a chance.”

Netanyahu said that he was willing to recognize a Palestinian state but did not understand why the Palestinians were not prepared to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in return, Channel 10 reported.

Netanyahu also emphasized that sitting down to talk was the only way to reach peace.

Merkel and her cabinet were due to arrive in Israel Monday night for a high-profile visit that will include the largest bilateral government consultations in Israel’s history. However, the trip, which officially kicks off the preparations for next year’s celebration of 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, is being overshadowed by reports of the worst crisis in diplomatic ties since Merkel took office nearly 10 years ago.

Diplomatic relations have actually reached a “nadir,” according a report in Der Spiegel, Germany’s most important weekly news magazine.

Although Germany is part of the P5+1 group currently negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, points of contention mostly have to do with Jerusalem’s policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

The relationship between Merkel and Netanyahu has been tense for years, partly because the Israeli prime minister allegedly leaked contents of a private conversation to the media but mainly because she doesn’t trust him. In the Federal Chancellery in Berlin there is a general distrust regarding Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution.

Merkel and her ministers will arrive at Ben-Gurion airport on Monday evening and immediately head to Jerusalem. At 8 p.m., the chancellor will attend a first private meeting with Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office, and later dine with him. At the same time, the German ministers will attend a dinner with their Israeli counterparts elsewhere in Jerusalem.

On Tuesday morning, the German guests and their Israeli hosts will attend a series of bilateral meetings. At 10:30 a.m., the joint cabinet session is scheduled to take place at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where the German delegation is staying. Following the historic G2G meeting, the ministers will sign several bilateral agreements and hold a joint press conference.

The G2G consultation will focus on the topic of “innovation,” the deputy spokeswoman of the German government said Wednesday.

After lunch, the German ministers will return home, while the chancellor is set to proceed to meetings with opposition leader Isaac Herzog and President Shimon Peres. At the President’s Residence, Peres will present Merkel with the Presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest civilian honor, and deliver statements to the press.

About 24 hours after she arrives, the German chancellor will head back to Berlin.

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