“Israel has undermined the trust in its willingness to negotiate,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said of the settlement plans, adding that they led to the “further shrinking of the geographical space for a future Palestinian state which has to be the basic requirement for a two state solution.”
Emerging from the German-Israeli government consultations today, a regular meeting of both cabinets, Merkel and Netanyahu were keen to stress the good state of relationships at all levels between the two countries.
“Thank you, Angela, for the warm welcome,” said Netanyahu.
“What a pleasure it is that we can communicate in this way today, given our history,” said Merkel. And the settlement issue? Quickly dealt with for reporters: “We agreed to disagree.”
Germany is not only one of Israel’s most important trade partners, it also provides arms and military equipment at very generous terms, such as submarines specifically developed for the Israeli Navy and capable of launching missiles with nuclear warheads.
“Israel has got used to unconditional support from Germany,” says Avi Primor, Israeli ambassador to Germany between 1993 and 1999. “So it was surprised and hurt by the official criticism.”
But the chemistry between Merkel and Netanyahu has deteriorated over the past months, according to Mr. Primor, and Merkel needs to reconsider her support for Israel against a backdrop of critical German public opinion toward Israel’s role in the Middle East.
“I think Germans are losing patience with our settlement policy and our treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. It’s a factor the German government can’t ignore,” says Primor.
This would not translate into an immediate policy change on the German side. But if after the Israeli elections in January the new government continues a confrontational course toward the Palestinians, there is a possibility that Germany might actually join the chorus of rather strong critics within the European Union, Primor believes.