Merkel lands in Israel, heads to dinner with Netanyahu

German chancellor’s visit comes amid sharp differences between Jerusalem and Berlin over Iran, Palestinians

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived Wednesday evening in Israel, where she immediately headed to Jerusalem for dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Merkel was greeted at Ben Gurion Airport by Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and Jeremy Issacharoff, Israel’s ambassador to Berlin.

Hanegbi posted a video to Twitter of himself welcoming Merkel and wrote that the “strong ties between our countries will continue to get stronger.”

Route 1 was closed to traffic as Merkel rode to Jerusalem, and there was tight security at the King David Hotel — where world leaders stay on visits to the city — with streets closed off, police manning barricades and a helicopter circling overhead.

At the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, Merkel was greeted by Netanyahu and his wife Sara.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on October 3, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Merkel’s two-day visit is centered around a one-on-one meeting with Netanyahu and a joint session of the Israeli and German cabinets.

The visit highlights Israel and Germany’s historically close partnership, but may also lay bare deep policy disagreements between the two countries.

In Jerusalem, in addition to her meeting with Netanyahu, the German leader will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial for the third time and receive her third honorary doctorate from an Israeli university.

She is not expected to enter the Palestinian territories, but her visit to Israel has prompted calls for the German chancellor to urge Israel to stop its planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village in the West Bank.

“Germany and Israel are connected with a unique relationship. Out of the heritage of our history, out of the break of civilization that was the Holocaust, we Germans have a special responsibility for the relationship with Israel,” Merkel said Friday in a video for her weekly podcast.

“We can be very thankful that today we’re close partners and friends,” she stressed.

Merkel and Netanyahu last met in June in Berlin and agreed that the next round of German-Israeli government consultations — which have been taking place for the last ten years — would focus on the economy, innovation and technology, the Chancellery said Tuesday, citing Israel as “one of the world market leaders” in information technology and cybersecurity.

“We can learn a lot in many areas,” said Merkel, who is accompanied on her visit by a delegation of leading German businesspeople.

But the two leaders are also expected to discuss geopolitical issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US administration’s increasingly tough policies vis-à-vis Ramallah, and the Iran nuclear deal and European efforts to salvage the pact and continue trading with the Islamic Republic.

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