In first, German coalition agreement slams settlements
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In first, German coalition agreement slams settlements

Also unprecedented is opposition to Jerusalem being recognized as Israel’s capital and calls for ‘democratic progress’ in Ramallah

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, left, talk during a meeting of the German Federal Parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, February 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, left, talk during a meeting of the German Federal Parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, February 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats sealed a deal Wednesday on a new coalition, reports said, based on an agreement that for the first time includes explicit criticism of Israeli settlements.

“Israel’s current settlement policy contradicts applicable international law and is not supported by us because it impedes a two-state solution,” the treaty reads.

Merkel’s center-right CDU/CSU faction and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s Social Democrats agreed on the coalition treaty on Wednesday morning, reports said. It is expected to be signed in the coming days, after the members of the Social Democratic Party vote on it.

Previous coalition treaties between the two parties have included an endorsement of a two-state solution, but stopped short of condemning the settlements.

The text agreed upon Wednesday also for the first time takes a position against recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital before a final-status peace agreement with the Palestinians has been reached. Also unprecedented is its pledge to support UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinians refugees, and a call for “democratic progress” in the Palestinian territories.

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, eastern Switzerland, on January 25, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm)

The passages were likely written in response to recent moves by the US administration. On December 6, Washington recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and in response to vehement opposition from Ramallah threatened to cut or withhold funding to the Palestinians.

The new German coalition agreement also reiterates Berlin’s commitment to Israel’s security and recognizes its character as a Jewish state.

“We commit ourselves to Germany’s special responsibility toward Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and its security. Israel’s right to exist and its security are non-negotiable for us,” the agreement reads, echoing almost verbatim the coalition treaty signed by the so-called Grand Coalition in November 2013.

“Germany will continue to work for a solution to the Middle East conflict based on a two-state solution,” the 2018 version goes on. “The status of Jerusalem, as well as other final status issues, will only be settled in the course of negotiations in order to be permanently accepted and durable.

We are committed to supporting the Jewish communities. We are grateful that after the Holocaust a rich Jewish life has developed in Germany

“At the same time we condemn any calls for violence and incitement. Israel’s right of existence must not be called into question. We demand that any actions — by either side — that are opposed to a final peace agreement be ceased immediately. In the Palestinian territories democratic progress is needed at all levels.”

The Israeli-Palestinian section of 2013’s coalition agreement was decidedly less detailed. Besides the commitment to Israel’s security, it stated that Germany has a “significant interest in peace and stability” in the Middle East. “Our goal is a two-state solution with a State of Israel within recognized and permanently secure frontiers as well as an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security.”

Opposition to Israeli settlements is consensus in German politics.

“As a friend and close ally, we need to know if Israel is not supporting a negotiated solution to this conflict anymore,” Foreign Minister Gabriel said during a speech in Tel Aviv last week. “So I ask those who oppose a Palestinian state: How do you want Israel’s future to look? Are you prepared to pay the price of perpetual occupation and conflict, a price that will continue to grow if there is no hope for self-determination on the Palestinian side?”

He added, “Are you willing to bear the consequences of fully fledged annexation — a one-state reality of unequal rights? Or are you ready to accept a single democratic state between the sea and the river?”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel at Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on January 31, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Gabriel is likely to be replaced as foreign minister by the Social Democrats’ failed candidate for chancellor, Martin Schulz.

The new coalition agreement also includes several passages devoted to the fight against the hatred of Jews and support for local Jewish communities.

Most noteworthy, the new government vows to install a special commissioner for Jewish life in Germany and for combating anti-Semitism.

The coalition partners promise to “fight decisively against anti-Semitism and likewise confront anti-Islamic streams,” it says. “We are committed to supporting the Jewish communities. We are grateful that after the Holocaust a rich Jewish life has developed in Germany. After the deprivation of rights and the murder of six million European Jews, we Germans have an everlasting responsibility in the fight against anti-Semitism.”

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