2021-10-10 17:48:56 Germany’s Merkel, Israel’s PM Bennett differ on Iran, Palestine | News
Germany’s Merkel, Israel’s PM Bennett differ on Iran, Palestine | News
Angela Merkel, Germany’s outgoing chancellor, paid her final official visit to Israel, despite differences between the allies on key issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Merkel stated on Sunday that Germany is still committed to reviving the international nuclear agreement with Iran, which Israel strongly opposes.
She also stated that Germany continues to believe that a two-state solution is the best way to end Israel’s decades-long conflict with the Palestinians.
“I believe that, even if it appears to be almost hopeless at this point, the idea of a two-state solution should not be discarded or buried… and that Palestinians should be able to live in peace in a state,” Merkel said at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
She also stated that Israeli settlement construction on occupied Palestinian territory is counterproductive.
Bennett, a former settler leader who opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, reacted quickly.
“Based on our experience, the meaning of a Palestinian state means that a terror state will almost certainly be established, roughly seven minutes from my house and from almost any point in Israel,” he explained.
He described himself as a “pragmatic man” and stated that he was willing to take action on the ground to improve living conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
‘Terrorism is my occupation,’ says one.
Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official in charge of relations with Israel, was enraged. “The worst form of ‘terrorism,’ not the establishment of a Palestinian state,” he wrote on Twitter.
It was one of the few squabbles between the close allies during Merkel’s two-day visit, which marked the end of a 16-year term marked by near unwavering support for Israel.
Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, slammed Merkel for referring to Israel’s 54-year occupation as “temporary.”
“By maintaining this fiction, the Merkel government has been able to avoid dealing with the reality of apartheid and persecution of millions of Palestinians,” he said in a statement.
During her presidency, Merkel repeatedly stated Germany’s commitment to Israel’s security and expressed confidence that Germany’s next government, which will be determined in lengthy coalition talks following an inconclusive election last month, would take a similar stance.
“I am optimistic that every German government, including the one that succeeds mine, will feel committed to Israel’s security,” she said. “I believe any successor who becomes German chancellor will see it that way.”
Merkel lights the eternal flame in Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum’s Hall of Remembrance [AFP]
Merkel supports the nuclear deal
Much of the discussion was expected to center on Iran’s nuclear program. While both leaders promised to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, their approaches to doing so differed.
Germany played a key role in the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran. The agreement fell apart in 2018 when then-President Donald Trump, with Israel’s support, withdrew from it. Over Israel’s objections, the Biden administration has been attempting to resurrect the JCPOA.
“I never thought the JCPOA was ideal, but it’s better than no agreement,” Merkel said. She described the situation as “very difficult,” citing Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium. “We are approaching critical weeks in relation to this question,” she said.
Israel regards Iran as its most dangerous adversary, citing the country’s military presence in neighboring Syria as well as its support for hostile fighter groups throughout the region. It accuses Iran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons, which Iran denies, and claims that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to Israel.
“It’s pointless to try to appease the Iranians. “They see conciliation as a sign of weakness,” Bennett said, accusing Iran of attempting to postpone its weapons development efforts. “We are at a critical juncture in history, and Germany’s position is particularly important.”
Merkel also paid a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, where she laid a wreath in memory of the six million European Jews killed by the Nazis during WWII.
“It has been possible to reset and re-establish relations after the crimes against humanity of the Shoah [Holocaust],” Merkel said.
It was “moving” that Israel had come to trust postwar Germany, but she added that this “trust must always be proven.”