Jerusalem (AFP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday in Jerusalem “the perpetual responsibility” of his country against anti-Semitism and xenophobia, during a visit where the special relationship with Israel is supposed to prevail over serious differences .
Merkel, arriving Wednesday evening for 24 hours, has admitted that the two governments were far from seeing everything at a glance, the agreement on Iran’s nuclear for example or the colonization of the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied by the Israeli army since 1967.
But she highlighted the convergences. She and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who received it on Wednesday and see her on Thursday, have a “different opinion” on the nuclear deal defended by Berlin and denounced by Netanyahu. But on the “threat” posed by Iran, especially for Israel and because of its presence in Syria, and “on the principle that everything must be done to prevent the development of nuclear weapons (by Iran), we absolutely agree, “she said.
Last week, Netanyahu sharply accused Europeans of complacency towards Iran for their efforts to save the deal and to circumvent American sanctions, calling to mind the European attitude to the rise of Nazism.
Ms Merkel in turn invoked this dark period, but to say the strength of the special relationship between the two countries, largely built on the ashes of history.
– “Inestimable gift” –
After a visit to the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, she noted that her visit coincided with the 80th anniversary of the Crystal Night, an eruption of anti-Semitic violence at the behest of the Hitler regime and foreshadowed of the Jewish genocide.
From this period “arises the perpetual responsibility of Germany to maintain the memory of this crime and to oppose anti-Semitism, xenophobia, hatred and violence”, she wrote in the memorial book of honor.
Merkel’s visit to Israel comes amidst concern over the resurgence of anti-Semitism in her country.
There is “unfortunately a lot of anti-Semitism” in Germany, she said before her visit. But at a ceremony awarded the title of doctor honoris causa of the University of Haifa Thursday, she spoke of the “miracle” that is today the existence of a Jewish community “flourishing”, part of the “identity” of Germany.
Relations with Israel are themselves an “inestimable gift, and an improbable gift in the light of our history,” Merkel insisted.
– “Absolutely false” –
Germany is considered Israel’s main ally among the major European powers. But the links have had snags, and even an open crisis in 2017.
Berlin at the time canceled the annual government consultations, citing agenda issues. In fact, Israel’s adoption of a law favoring colonization and exasperation over the behavior of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history is believed to have motivated the German decision.
It is precisely these consultations, in place for ten years, which resume with the visit of Ms Merkel.
Despite the forthcoming entry into force of new US sanctions against Iran or the worrisome situation in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, it should be mainly about economy, innovation, the fight against anti-Semitism, and the signature of cooperation agreements.
No movement is expected among Palestinian neighbors. The prospects for a settlement of the conflict have seldom seemed darker.
The fate of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, which holds the attention of Europeans and Germans and Israel is committed to demolition, seems to have been put on hold for the occasion, although an ultimatum issued by Israel to the inhabitants expired Monday.
The destruction of this community in the West Bank just before or during Merkel’s visit could turn into a diplomatic incident, as Europeans are concerned about the message she would address, on the treatment of these minorities, on colonization and on idea of a Palestinian state coexisting with Israel.
The residents of Khan al-Ahmar reported that they were counting on Ms Merkel’s intercession.
On such a subject too, and on the conflict with the Palestinians in general, Merkel admitted her disagreements with Mr. Netanyahu, and reiterated her attachment to a two-state solution, ie the creation of a Palestinian state that would coexist with Israel.
But, according to the Chancellor, it is “absolutely false” to say that Berlin conditioned the arrival of Ms. Merkel to the non-destruction of Khan al-Ahmar before or during his visit.