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Amid Ukraine crisis, new German chancellor to visit Israel on Tuesday

Pre-scheduled trip by Olaf Scholz follows his announcement that Germany will boost defense spending in response to Russian invasion, seek to buy Israeli drones

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for a security cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Hannibal Hanschke, Pool)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for a security cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Hannibal Hanschke, Pool)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will make a short visit to Israel on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry said, amid a Russian invasion of Ukraine that has prompted Germany to announce a major boost in defense spending.

While in Israel, Scholz is expected to hold meetings with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Scholz is also due to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial with Bennett on Wednesday before departing later that day.

The visit comes amid international efforts to find an end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Israel has been suggested by Ukraine as a mediator in the conflict due to its close ties with both nations.

Bennett offered to mediate between Moscow and Kyiv during a phone call Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, though it is believed that the latter declined the offer. Delegations from Russia and Ukraine met for talks Monday on the Belarusian border.

While Israel has so far remained carefully noncommittal on the conflict, Germany has condemned Russia and joined other Western nations in sanctioning Moscow.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) arrive for a joint press conference in Kyiv on February 14, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

Scholz’s trip follows his announcement Sunday that Germany will increase spending on its military to over 2 percent of GDP, in a major shift. Berlin has long fallen short of that spending goal despite pledging to meet it as a member of NATO.

Scholz said Germany would seek to buy advanced Hermes model drones from Israel as part of the new defense spending.

In addition to the increase in defense spending, the German leader announced that Berlin, a major importer of Russian natural gas and oil, would seek to diversify its energy sources.

The visit, Scholz’s first to Israel since becoming chancellor in December, was planned in advance but appeared in jeopardy earlier this month due to a threatened strike by Foreign Ministry workers.

Carrie Keller-Lynn contributed to this report.

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