German Foreign Minister to Visit Gaza

YERUSHALAYIM -

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Sunday that he will visit the Gaza Strip — a rare trip to the Hamas-ruled enclave by a Western leader, though no meetings with Hamas were on the itinerary.

Steinmeier told President Rivlin during his stop in Yerushalayim that “concrete steps” are needed in the reconstruction of Gaza after last year’s war. But he also stressed that rocket attacks from Gaza cannot be tolerated.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that in his meeting with the German diplomat they discussed the peace process “at some length.”

“I think the only way to move that is through direct negotiations,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority has moved away from these negotiations, but I believe, I remain committed to the idea that the only way we can achieve a lasting peace is through the concept of two states for two peoples — a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish nation-state of Israel.”

Rivlin told Steinmeier that European moves to force a restart of negotiations with the Palestinians as soon as possible were misconceived.

“We do not need to be pressured. The need to rebuild Gaza and the renewal of direct negotiations is very clear to us. The Palestinians’ unilateral actions as we saw for example on Friday in Zurich are unnecessary and a bizarre twist on history — that the successors of those who murdered athletes in Munich should now be promoting a boycott of Israel goes against the ideas of humanity and justice.” Rivlin was referring to a failed attempt by the Palestinians to have Israel expelled from FIFA, the international soccer association.

Addressing the ongoing talks with Iran, Netanyahu decried Iranian “aggression” across the Middle East, and urged Steinmeier to take the Islamic regime’s regional ambitions into account in making any deal concerning its nuclear program.

Netanyahu said Iran is “conducting an unprecedented … conventional arms build-up. It’s developing a huge arms industry, which includes drones, rockets, precision- guided missiles, submarines and satellites as well.”

Steinmeier also heard from Israel’s new Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely during his visit on Sunday. She lobbied against EU plans to label Israeli products manufactured in Yehudah and Shomron.

“The state of Israel stands against a harsh onslaught of boycotts coming from Europe,” she said, adding Israel looked forward to seeing that “Germany would lead the struggle against the phenomenon of labeling products from Yehudah and Shomron.”

“The boycott of products hurts the quality of life in Judea and Samaria both for the Palestinian side and for the Israeli side,” Hotovely said.

Hotovely praised Berlin’s efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a “nuclear threshold state,” as well as its continuing opposition to anti-Semitism.

In a statement at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu denounced the “international campaign to blacken Israel’s name” which he compared, in the case of the BDS boycott, to anti-Semitic “libels” of earlier periods.

“This is a phenomenon that we have known in the history of our people,” and cited the infamous accusation that Jews “drink the blood of little children.”

“It is important to understand that these things do not stem from the fact that if only we were a little nicer or a little more generous that anything would change,” the prime minister said, “because this campaign to delegitimize Israel entails something much deeper that is being directed at us and seeks to deny our very right to live here.”