German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned Thursday that continued Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank endangers the possibility of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians and could lead to war in the Middle East, Reuters reported.
“We are concerned that unlimited construction of settlements will … make a two-state solution impossible and could increase the risks of conflicts in the Middle East, including possible war,” Sigmar Gabriel said during a news conference at a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Bonn, Germany.
Despite being one of Israel’s strongest allies, Germany has taken a more critical stance against Israel of late, particularly in regards to Israeli settlement policy.
On Monday, the Haaretz daily reported that Germany cancelled an upcoming summit in Jerusalem between the Israeli and German governments due to Angela Merkel’s unhappiness with a law passed in the Knesset last week legalizing outpost settlements built on private Palestinian land, as well as the announcement of some 6,000 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump in January.
The cancellation of the summit followed unusually harsh criticism issued by Germany last week after the so-called Regulation Law was passed, with the foreign ministry saying many Germans who usually “stand firmly by Israel’s side in a spirit of heartfelt solidarity are disappointed” by the passing of this law.
“The confidence we had in the Israeli government’s commitment to the two-state solution has been profoundly shaken,” a statement at the time said.
On Thursday Gabriel also singled out the Regulation Law as being particularly problematic in Germany’s eyes during the news conference. Merkel has not publicly commented on the law.
Gabriel’s remarks came after US President Donald Trump seemed to walk back the US’s long-standing commitment to a two-state solution during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, saying “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”
Trump’s remarks seemed to mark a serious change in US policy, as support for a two-state solution has long had strong bi-partisan support, as well as the backing of the vast majority of the international community.
Despite his remarks, Trump called on Israel to refrain from continued settlement construction during Wednesday’s press conference, telling Netanyahu “I’d like you to hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
In addition to Germany, a number of other countries have sought to reiterate their support for a two-solution following Trump’s remarks, with Britain, France and Sweden all reaffirming their support for Palestinian statehood as part of a final peace deal at a United Nations Security Council meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Thursday, during which US Ambassador the UN Nikki Haley also said the US “absolutely” supports a two-state solution.