Germany and Israel fail to agree on settlements


German and Israeli leaders in Berlin have “agreed to disagree” on the settlements issue .

It was just one of several burdens on yesterday’s fourth joint cabinet meeting in Berlin.On his way to Germany, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he was “disappointed” that Germany had abstained from last week’s Palestinian observer status vote at the UN.

A week after approving 3,000 West Bank settlements on occupied Palestinian land, which international observers say will complicate a two-state solution, Mr Netanyahu told a joint press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel that this was not a new departure.

“Most governments . . . understand that these blocs, these arrangements are going to be part of Israel in a final political peace settlement,” said Mr Netanyahu, who faces re-election in a month’s time.

While Dr Merkel made no bones about her disappoval of the plan, she declined to criticise it directly, saying she was “not someone who threatens”.

She urged a resumption of stalled peace talks and reaffirmed her commitment to the state of Israel, which she has described as part of Germany’s Staatsraison.

“We in Germany believe the work on a two-state solution must be continued. We must keep trying to come to negotiations and one-sided moves should be avoided.”

The EU and several member states summoned Israeli envoys to protest at the settlement plan – although not Germany. Mr Netanyahu said that despite his disappointment with Berlin’s abstention on the UN vote, he had no doubts about its commitment to Israel.

“I don’t think we have lost Europe,” Mr Netanyahu told Die Welt daily, “but there is obviously a difference of view in Europe on the issue of the settlements.”

Rough patch

Despite their mild-mannered press conference, both sides conceded that the German-Israeli relationship had hit a rough patch.

“We are asking a lot of the Germans and the Europeans,” said Avi Primor, former Israeli ambassador, on German television.

“If we ask a lot from Germany, we have to do so with an eye on what’s important for them. Peace in the Middle East and justice for the Palestinians are important for the Germans.”

Some 70 per cent of Germans believe Israel follows its national interests without heeding those of other people, according to a May poll, while 59 per cent of Germans view Israel as “aggresive”.

A third are positively disposed to Israel while nearly two-thirds believe Germany has no special obligation to Israel because of the Holocaust.