Merkel: ‘No reasonable alternative’ to two-state solution
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Merkel: ‘No reasonable alternative’ to two-state solution

Hosting Mahmoud Abbas in Berlin, German chancellor says Israeli settlement activity an impediment to resolution of conflict

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands after a press conference in Berlin, on March 24, 2017. (AFP Photo/Odd Andersen)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands after a press conference in Berlin, on March 24, 2017. (AFP Photo/Odd Andersen)

German Chancellor Angel Merkel said on Friday that there is “no reasonable alternative” to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, and warned that Israeli settlement activity was impeding a resolution to the conflict. She also chided the Palestinians for taking to international forums to “unilaterally denounce” Israel at every turn.

In a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Berlin on Friday, Merkel was quoted by Reuters as saying: “I see no reasonable alternative to the goal of a two-state solution.”

“Both the Israeli and the Palestinian people have the right to live in peace and security and none of the other options can deliver that credibly,” she added.

The German chancellor also warned that in the absence of a two-state solution, Israel cannot remain both “a Jewish and a democratic state,” according to the German dpa news agency.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attend a press conference in Berlin on March 24, 2017. (AFP Photo/Odd Andersen)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attend a press conference in Berlin on March 24, 2017. (AFP/Odd Andersen)

Merkel’s comments appeared to be a rebuke of both the Israeli government and US President Donald Trump, who seemed to walk back the United States’ longstanding commitment to a two-solution during a meeting at the White House with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, saying “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

Following Trump’s comments, a number of world leaders reaffirmed their support for a two-state solution — including Merkel — and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley subsequently said: “We absolutely support a two-state solution.”

During her meeting with Abbas, which focused on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Merkel also criticized Israel’s settlement policies in the West Bank, saying they are “leading to an erosion of the basis for a two-state solution,” and were “an impediment to the resolution of the conflict.”

Merkel also extended her criticism for the lack of progress on the two-state solution to the Palestinians, telling Abbas that if the Palestinians are interested in peace, they should not “unilaterally denounce” Israel in international forums.

Abbas, for his part, reiterated Palestinian support for a two-state solution, and denounced the possible alternative of an Israeli-controlled “apartheid” single-state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel address a press conference at the chancellery in Berlin, October 21, 2015. (AFP/Tobias Schwarz)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel address a press conference at the chancellery in Berlin, October 21, 2015. (AFP/Tobias Schwarz)

Despite historically being one of Israel’s strongest supporters, Germany’s relations with Israel have grown tense of late, in large part due to Berlin’s frustration over West Bank settlements.

In February, the Haaretz daily reported that a summit between the Israeli and German governments, including both Merkel and Netanyahu, scheduled to take place in Jerusalem in May was scrapped due to the chancellor’s frustration over the so-called Regulation Bill, as well as the announcement of some 6,000 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the inauguration of Trump in January.

After the legislation — which legalizes some illegal West Bank settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land — was passed in February, the German foreign ministry issued a statement 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,” the statement said.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was also critical of the law, warning in February that Israeli settlement construction not only endangers a two-state solution but could possibly lead to war.

“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,” he said.

AP contributed to this report.

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