In an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 television on Sunday, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel said that her country will not follow in the footsteps of the United States by moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital of Jerusalem.
She explained this position as part of a commitment on Germany’s part towards the creation of a Palestinian State within Israel’s Biblical heartland.
“We have to work for the two-state solution, and according to that, the status of Jerusalem should be clarified,” Merkel said in the interview.
Jerusalem was not the only point discussed in the interview that set Merkel at odds with Israel. She admitted that she disagreed with the Israeli government concerning construction in Judea and Samaria, claiming it was an obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state.
“I think this situation causes some headaches because the two-state solution is not becoming more likely through a policy of settlement building,” she said. “Therefore, we have a difference of opinion.”
Merkel’s position reflects official German policy.
“Our goal is a two-state solution with a State of Israel… as well as an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security,” the government’s coalition treaty states. “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.”
Despite these disagreements, Merkel maintained that the Germany has a special relationship with Israel “stemming from the eternal responsibility we bear for the Shoah (Holocaust).”
“We commit ourselves to Germany’s special responsibility towards Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and its security,” says the German government’s coalition treaty in that regard. “Israel’s right to exist and its security are non-negotiable for us.”
Merkel’s remarks comes at a time when some factions within the German government are calling for a change in this policy concerning the placement of the Jerusalem embassy. Petr Bystron, a chief foreign policy spokesman for the “far-right” Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, is an outspoken advocate for moving the German embassy to Jerusalem.
AfD is the third largest party in Germany and represents a significant voice in German politics. In a press release issued in December 2017, Bystron criticized his country’s vote in the UN General Assembly against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and his party “voiced its support for a strong and free Israel with Jerusalem as its capital.”
The AfD platform rejects anti-Semitism and calls for supporting Israel. As a right-wing party, the AfD believes radical Islam is an enemy they share with Israel.
In the interview, Merkel also broke with Israel concerning the Iran nuclear deal. Trump considers the deal to be seriously flawed and has set a May 12 deadline for European negotiators including Germany, to revise the agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the deal compromises Israel’s security.
“The issue on which we disagree is how we can best contain this,” she said to Channel 10. “Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that the nuclear deal with Iran does not provide the security Israel desires. We believe it’s better to have this agreement, even if it is not perfect, than to have no agreement. We will continue to discuss this, but Germany will watch very closely to ensure that this agreement will be fulfilled.”
Merkel is scheduled to visit the region later this year to meet with Israeli and Palestinian politicians. This will be her first visit since 2014.