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Germany’s Merkel cancels upcoming Israel trip over Afghanistan crisis

Bennett tells chancellor he hopes to host her in future, as Berlin takes part in chaotic operation to evacuate Afghans ahead of looming withdrawal deadline

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a plenary session at the Bundestag in Berlin on August 25, 2021. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a plenary session at the Bundestag in Berlin on August 25, 2021. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called off a planned weekend visit to Israel because of the situation in Afghanistan, the German government said Thursday.

Merkel was due to travel to Israel on Saturday for her first trip to the country since Naftali Bennett succeeded Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. Her visit had been due to last until Monday.

It was called off in consultation with Bennett “because of current developments in Afghanistan,” Merkel’s office said in a statement. Germany is among the countries scrambling to evacuate from Kabul their own nationals and Afghans who helped their forces during a nearly-two-decade deployment in the country.

Bennett spoke with Merkel from his hotel in Washington during his ongoing visit to the United States, according to his office.

The prime minister said he understands the situation and expressed the hope that the Afghanistan withdrawal will be successful and carried out without casualties.

He added that he hoped to host Merkel in the future, the statement said.

Merkel’s office said the chancellor intended to go ahead with her visit at an unspecified later time.

In this August 21, 2021, image provided by the US Air Force, US Airmen and Marines guide evacuees aboard a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan (Senior Airman Brennen Lege/US Air Force via AP)

Merkel is approaching the end of her time in office. She isn’t running in Germany’s national election on September 26 but it isn’t yet clear when she will step down. In Germany, the outgoing government stays in office until a new one is sworn in, and forming a coalition can be a time-consuming process.

Throughout her 16 years in power, Merkel has described Israel’s national security as a crucial priority of German foreign policy due to the country’s historical responsibility for the Holocaust.

Germany is taking part in the current military operation by NATO allies to evacuate Afghans in need of protection as well as racing to complete a pullout of its own troops and personnel.

The country said this cannot continue once the Americans withdraw ahead of an August 31 deadline, which has created a desperate rush to airlift out as many people as possible before time runs out.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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