Israel denies report Germany frustrated with Netanyahu, two-state process
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Israel denies report Germany frustrated with Netanyahu, two-state process

Official in Jerusalem says ties with Berlin ‘close and good,’ claims Der Spiegel piece likely an internal attempt to bash Merkel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Berlin, Germany, on February 16, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Berlin, Germany, on February 16, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

A senior official in Jerusalem dismissed a report on Saturday that claimed Germany was becoming increasingly frustrated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies and that Chancellor Angela Merkel said she understood why PA President Mahmoud Abbas sought the support of the UN Security Council.

“Ties between Israel and Germany are close and good, and they will continue to be,” the official told Haaretz on Saturday, adding that the statements in the report published by Der Spiegel were “most likely an internal German attempt to bash Merkel over her close relationship with Netanyahu.”

A report in Der Spiegel‘s latest edition said that Merkel’s camp was “furious” at a leak of confidential consultations between Jerusalem and Berlin in the German capital in February, which subsequently appeared in the free Israel Hayom daily, owned by staunch Netanyahu supporter Sheldon Adelson.

Furthermore, the magazine said, the leaked details of Merkel’s remarks were “twisted” to give the impression that she supported Netanyahu’s position that a two-state solution with the Palestinians was currently unfeasible, whereas the chancellor had actually said that Israeli settlement construction “makes it unlikely that a viable Palestinian state can be established in accordance with plans aimed at a two-state solution.”

(The Times of Israel reported at the time that the German government was displeased with Netanyahu for asserting that Merkel had changed her stance on a two-state solution, and that it dispatched emissaries to Jerusalem clarify Berlin’s position.)

The report also claimed that Netanyahu was having a deleterious effect on Israeli-German relations, to the extent that “many, particularly in the Berlin Foreign Ministry, have begun wondering if Germany sent the wrong signals in the past.” The magazine in particular points to a speech by Merkel in the Knesset in 2008 during which she said that Israel’s security is part of Germany’s “raison d’état.”

This shift by Berlin, Der Spiegel said, could be seen in Germany’s vote in a January 2016 resolution by the European Union on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Prior to the vote, Netanyahu called German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to seek reassurance over a paragraph in the draft resolution criticizing settlement construction.

“I’m counting on you,” Netanyahu told Steinmeier, the report said. But the foreign minister voted in favor of the draft, with the wording condemning settlement expansion unchanged.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a press conference after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on April 19, 2016 at the chancellery in Berlin. (AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZ)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a press conference after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on April 19, 2016 at the chancellery in Berlin. (AFP/Tobias Schwarz)

According to Der Spiegel, the Merkel government has “lost hope that the peace process can be revived so long as Netanyahu remains in office.”

Another manifestation of this view came when Merkel met with Abbas in Berlin some two weeks ago. The chancellor, the report said, “was demonstrative in her support.”

“I understand why President Abbas continually seeks out the Security Council,” Merkel said, according to the report. The magazine added that, “Even accusations from Netanyahu that EU labeling rules for products made in the settlements are akin to an anti-Jewish boycott are no longer taken seriously.”

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