German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday said he rejects the term “apartheid” to describe Israeli policy regarding the Palestinians, after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, standing beside him in Berlin, used it in his public remarks.
Abbas, who frequently accuses Israel of practicing apartheid, said in Berlin that “Israel’s undermining of the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, and turning it into a one-state reality with an apartheid regime, will not serve security and stability in our region.”
According to Reuters, in his own comments, Scholz pushed back.
“Naturally we have a different assessment with a view to Israeli politics, and I want to expressly say here that I do not espouse the use of the word ‘apartheid’ and do not think it correctly describes the situation,” he said.
Abbas used the same term last month when hosting US President Joe Biden in Bethlehem. Denouncing Israel in a statement with Biden at his side, the PA leader protested what he said was Israel’s “racial discrimination and apartheid against our people.”
The Palestinian leader has also used the term when addressing world leaders at the UN General Assembly. In 2012, for instance, he castigated Israel’s “system of apartheid against the Palestinian people.” In 2017, he declared: “We are entrusted and you are entrusted to end apartheid in Palestine… Can the world accept an apartheid regime in the 21st century?”
Israel has long denied accusations of apartheid, saying its Arab minority enjoys full civil rights and that its security arrangements in the West Bank are necessary to combat terrorism — a far cry from South Africa’s former racist segregation policies based on white supremacist ideology.
It also rejects the term “occupation” to describe its activities in the West Bank and Gaza. It views Gaza, from which it withdrew soldiers and settlers in 2005, as a hostile entity ruled by the Islamist terror group Hamas, and it considers the West Bank to be disputed territory subject to peace negotiations — which have been nonexistent for years.
In February, Germany rejected a report by Amnesty International that accused Israel of policies amounting to apartheid.
A former leader of Scholz’s Social Democratic Party said in 2012 that the situation in the West Bank city of Hebron was “apartheid,” sparking condemnations that eventually prompted the SPD to apologize for that remark.
According to a statement from the Palestinian Authority’s official Wafa news agency, during their meeting Tuesday, Abbas and Scholz talked about “ways to protect the two-state solution by calling on the international community to stop the Israeli aggressions and recognize the state of Palestine and its full membership in the United Nations.”
It added that “President Abbas briefed the German chancellor on the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and their properties, and Muslim and Christian holy sites as well as on the unprecedented settlement acceleration and seizure of land.”