German Chancellor Angela Merkel began her last official visit to Israel on Sunday after 16 years in office. She met with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whom she assured that “the issue of Israel’s security will always be of key importance to any German government.”
Angela Merkel’s visit to Israel was originally scheduled for August, but was postponed due to events related to the withdrawal of US forces and NATO nations, including Germany, from Afghanistan, paving the way for the Taliban’s return to power.
“I want to take this opportunity to emphasize that the issue of Israel’s security will always be of key importance to any German government,” Merkel told Bennett in a private meeting, in line with a statement released by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office.
Bennett on the “moral compass”
Reuters agency reported that, attending a later session of Bennett’s cabinet, Merkel added: “It is a gift of history, to which Israel has contributed greatly that Germany can sit at the table today, because the history of the Holocaust is a unique event for which it is still we are responsible at every stage of history, also in the future. “
For his part, Bennett thanked the outgoing German Chancellor for “playing a special role in relationships based on a huge historical wound.” – Those who remain neutral in the conflict between Israel and countries like Iran and groups like Hamas and Hezbollah have lost their moral compass. The chancellor has been a moral compass for the entire European continent for years, promoting an uncompromising tactic to support Israel, said Bennett, quoted by Reuters.
The Palestine question
Bennett, at the head of a bipartisan coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood, which puts him at odds with Western powers such as Germany. “We sometimes disagree on issues such as whether there should be a solution such as the creation of two states (Israel and Palestine), but we agree, I believe, that there must always be a vision of a permanent democratic Jewish state of Israel,” Merkel told the Israeli prime minister.
On her eighth and final official visit to Israel as chancellor, Merkel, who arrived in the country on Saturday evening, is also due to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial site.
Iranian program crossed “all red lines”
One of the topics of Merkel’s talks in Israel was the Iranian nuclear program, which – as the head of the Israeli government at the United Nations recently said – “crossed all the red lines”. Bennett argued that the Jewish state would not allow Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons. In this regard, Israel is trying to convince the European trio (France, Great Britain and Germany) not to conclude a new agreement with Iran that could eventually allow it to produce a nuclear bomb.
In her 16 years in power, Angela Merkel made Israel’s right to defend herself against enemies one of the priorities of the foreign policy of Germany, a country that under Nazism was responsible for the Holocaust, the genocide of the Jews.
During her recent visit to Jerusalem, Angela Merkel did not plan to travel to Ramallah, headquarters of Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, although Germany continues to advocate the dissolution of the “two states”
Without meeting Netanyahu
Today, more than 675,000 Israeli settlers live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967. And although she openly opposes colonization which is illegal under international law, Angela Merkel remains criticized by human rights defenders who accuse her of not having a sufficiently strong discourse on the matter.
“The new German government will have to put human rights at the heart of its policy towards Israel and Palestine,” Omar Shakir, Israeli-Palestinian conflict specialist at Human Rights Watch said this weekend.
Angela Merkel is also not planning a meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, the current leader of the Israeli opposition, who has been in power for most (12 years) of Merkel’s reign.
After 16 years in power, the Chancellor is preparing to leave, while the German Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals are trying to create an unprecedented coalition in Germany without Angela Merkel’s conservatives.
Main photo source: MENAHEM KAHANA / PAP / EPA