German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed public support Tuesday for Israel’s security requirements and its demand to be recognized by the Palestinians as a Jewish state, giving a boost to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s flagship positions while also backing ongoing peace talks.
Merkel, in the country for an intergovernmental meeting, also reiterated her opposition to Israeli expansion of West Bank settlements, saying they make a positive outcome of the talks less likely.
“We in the federal government support a two-state solution – a Palestinian state and a Jewish state of Israel,” the German leader said at a press conference in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. “We also support Israel’s security requirements to be able to finally live in secure borders.”
Germans are unfamiliar with the constant fear of terror attacks Israelis live with daily, the chancellor said, and especially considering the country’s small size it was important to guarantee that its citizens feel secure.
“But for a two-state solution we need territorial integrity,” she said, referring to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which according to much of the international community sit on land needed for a Palestinian state. “Thus we treat the settlement question with concern, in which we are not always of one opinion,” she told reporters, speaking in German. “We hope that we can overcome the problems and that the two-state solution can be implemented with an agreement.”
Speaking in German, Merkel told reporters that she did not support a boycott or labeling of settlement goods, a position Netanyahu thanked her for, saying that boycotts would move the sides further from peace.
Such sanctions against the Middle East’s only true democracy are “neither moral nor correct nor productive” but only serve to strengthen Palestinian intransigence, he said.
“There can be criticism of Israel — that’s legitimate,” Netanyahu said. “But it’s hard not to notice that those who call for boycott of Israel do not call for boycott of any other state… A boycott on the Jewish people, and the country of the Jewish people?”
Earlier during the crowded press conference, Netanyahu had reiterated his key demands for peace with the Palestinians. He called for a “demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. Without Palestinian recognition of Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people there cannot be real reconciliation,” he said.
He also called for “ironclad security arrangements… There can be no real peace without security,” he said.
Netanyahu also reiterated his hard-line position on the Iranian nuclear program, calling for the six powers that are currently negotiating with Tehran – including Germany – to prevent the regime from attaining the capability to produce a nuclear weapon.
“Iran continues its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said, calling the regime the “equivalent of 50 North Koreas.” Tehran continues to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, which “are not directed at us, they’re intended for Europe,” he said.
Iran continues to call for the annihilation of Jewish state, Netanyahu said, telling Merkel that it was important not only to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon but to prevent it from having the ability to do so. “Zero enrichment, zero centrifuge, zero plutonium, none of this is necessary” for civilian use of nuclear energy, he said.
Netanyahu acknowledged that Germany and the other countries “probably” don’t share his demands that Iran be left with no uranium enrichment. “But I think it’s a mistake,” he said, pointing out that “just about anybody in the Middle East” agrees with his position, “whether they say so publicly or not.”
It doesn’t happen often that Israelis and Arabs agree, he pointed out.
Merkel suggested that the so-called P5+1 powers negotiating with Iran are currently inclined to allow Iran a low-level enrichment capacity, stressing that this situation was preferable to a situation in which the regime continued to enrich and install further advanced centrifuges, as was the case before an interim agreement with Iran went into effect a few weeks ago.
“We disagree on that,” Merkel said, adding that she does take Netanyahu’s concerns seriously.
Merkel arrived Monday night with 15 ministers — nearly her entire cabinet – for consultations with their Israeli counterparts and to celebrate 50 years of ties between Israel and Germany.
On Monday night, the she and Netanyahu touted the countries’ strong friendship.
“We have come here with almost the whole of our new government and we wanted to show you in this way that this is indeed a very strong friendship,” Merkel said.