Following a report that claimed Germany’s government is losing its patience with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over disagreements on a two-state solution, Israeli officials reassured the media that ties between the two countries are as strong as ever.
“Ties between Israel and Germany are close and good, and they will continue to be,” the official told Haaretz.
The report, published on Saturday in Germany’s Der Spiegel and titled “Skepticism of German-Israeli Friendship Growing in Berlin”, quoted several German officials expressing “concern” over Netanyahu’s policies, mostly regarding the issue of construction in the Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria.
“Israel’s current policies are not contributing to the country remaining Jewish and democratic,” said Norbert Röttgen, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party and the chair of German parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Der Speigel reported. “We must express this concern more clearly to Israel.”
The article referenced an incident in February which it argued had soured relations between the two countries. After German-Israeli state talks in Berlin, the Israeli daily Israel Hayom printed a headline suggesting that Merkel supported Netanyahu’s resistance to the two-state solution. In fact, said Merkel’s advisors, the opposite was true; Netanyahu had “twisted her words”, the article claimed.
Merkel “had repeatedly made it clear to Netanyahu that she believes the effects of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territories are disastrous” and represent an obstacle to peace, read the Der Speigel article. The German chancellor and her advisors “were furious”.
According to the article, Merkel’s government has “lost hope that the peace process can be revived so long as Netanyahu remains in office.” Der Speigel even quoted Merkel as saying that she “understand[s] why President Abbas continually seeks out the [United Nations] Security Council” rather than engage in direct negotiations with Israel.
Relations between Germany and Israel have traditionally been very strong; Israel relies on Germany’s support on the international stage. In a speech made at the Knesset in 2008, Merkel said that Israeli security was part of Germany’s “raison d’état.”
However, Der Speigel argued that “times may be changing”, with even “avowed Israel supporters” in the German government reluctant to continue “accommodating” Netanyahu. It cited a recent vote at the European Union in which, contrary to Netanyahu’s direct request, Germany’s foreign minister voted in favor of a resolution on the Middle East conflict labeling settlements “illegal under international law”.
The Israeli official who denied the report said that it was “most likely an internal German attempt to bash Merkel over her close relationship with Netanyahu.”