Germany ‘disappointed,’ lost confidence in Israel after outpost law

Trust in Israel’s commitment to two-state solution ‘has been profoundly shaken’ by controversial legislation, Berlin says

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

German chancellor Angela Merkel (R), Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (C) and presidential candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Bundestag in Berlin, July 7, 2016. (AFP photo/John MacDougall)
German chancellor Angela Merkel (R), Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (C) and presidential candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Bundestag in Berlin, July 7, 2016. (AFP photo/John MacDougall)

Germany on Wednesday harshly criticized Israel for passing the Regulation Law earlier this week, saying the new legislation undermines trust in Israel’s willingness to reach a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“The confidence we had in the Israeli government’s commitment to the two-state solution has been profoundly shaken,” a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry in Berlin said in a statement.

“Only a negotiated two-state solution can bring durable peace and is in Israel’s interest. It remains a fundamental tenet of our Middle East policy.”

On Monday night, the Knesset passed the controversial legislation in its final readings, 60 to 52. The law, which is likely to be overturned by the High Court of Justice, would retroactively legalize Israeli West Bank outposts built on private Palestinian land.

The law has been widely criticized by the international community, including the United Nations, the European Union, France, Britain, Turkey and others. Even some Israeli right-wingers opposed the law, including members of the governing coalition who voted in favor of it and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

“In view of the many reservations which the Israeli attorney general, among others, has affirmed once more, it would be good if the bill could soon undergo a critical legal review,” stated the Foreign Ministry in Germany, traditionally one of Israel’s staunchest allies in the international community. “We hope and expect that the Israeli government will renew its commitment to a negotiated two-state solution and underpin this with practical steps.”

Noting that some Knesset members were preparing bills to annex parts of the West Bank, Berlin said that it had become “a question of credibility.”

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 statement said.

Even MP Volker Beck, who heads the German-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group and is currently visiting Israel, criticized the law.

German politician Volker Beck. (CC BY-SA Mathias Schindler/Wikipedia)
German MP Volker Beck (CC BY-SA Mathias Schindler/Wikipedia)

“The Knesset’s decision worries me. This law is an attack on the two-state solution and a heavy hit against the credibility of the Israeli government,” he said in a statement issued Tuesday. There are no sound legal or political reasons for this legislation, Beck added, asking how the Knesset imagines a future Palestinian state living peacefully next to Israel if it was not allowed to have a contiguous territory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears “weakened” by the corruption probes against him, rendering him unable to stop “hotheads and irresponsible members of his coalition,” Beck said. “For him, this is an act of weakness.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, whose Jewish Home party was the law’s staunchest supporter, is meeting Wednesday with her German counterpart Heiko Maas.

On Sunday, the German parliament is scheduled to elect a new president. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is widely expected to win the election, will likely make Israel one of his first foreign destinations as the country’s new president.

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