“German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet landed Monday at Ben Gurion Airport for a two-day stay which will include a joint meeting of the two governments,” reports the Times of Israel. “Netanyahu greeted Merkel in Jerusalem Monday night at a brief press conference. The two were scheduled to meet at the Prime Minister’s Residence afterward for a working dinner.”
“We have come here with almost the whole of our new government and we wanted to show you in this way that this is indeed a very strong friendship,” Merkel said in German and relayed in English through a translator.
Merkel said Germany has been working with Israel “shoulder to shoulder” over the past five decades “to secure the future of the state of Israel.” She said that “part and parcel of the security of Israel is the two state solution…a Jewish state of Israel and alongside it a Palestinian state.”
Standing at her side Netanyahu said the U.S mediated peace talks, as well as international efforts to quell Iran’s nuclear program, would figure prominently in his meetings with Merkel.
Germany also belongs to a group of nations currently negotiating with Iran, Israel’s arch foe and a particular nemesis for Netanyahu.
“I would like to discuss ways to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability. I believe that this is the greatest challenge to the security of the world,” Netanyahu said.
He also said he wanted to discuss ways to advance peace efforts with the Palestinians.
“The people of Israel want peace, they want a real peace, they want a peace that ends the conflict that finally gets the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state and one in which we have the necessary means of security to defend ourselves against any possible contingency in this turbulent Middle East,” Netanyahu said.
Merkel’s visit will include the largest bilateral government consultations in Israel’s history.
However, the trip, which officially kicks off the preparations for next year’s celebration of 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, is being overshadowed by reports of the worst crisis in diplomatic ties since Merkel took office nearly 10 years ago.
- Germany is Israel’s closest ally in Europe. Tensions have been on the rise lately between Israel and Europe, and also Germany, over settlement policies. Israel insists the issue of settlements should be resolved through the peace talks.
- An article by Der Spiegel last week said that German-Israel ties are at an all-time low, with Netanyahu and Merkel resorting to shouting at each other on the phone on a number of occasions while discussing Israeli policies toward Palestinians.
- “Relations between the two countries have never been as difficult during Merkel’s three terms in office as they are now,” the magazine said.
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