Officials Deny Merkel-Netanyahu Tensions

BERLIN (Reuters/Hamodia) -

German and Israeli government officials denied on Sunday a magazine report which said Berlin might end its unconditional support for Israel due to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s increasing frustration with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s policies.

Der Spiegel reported that senior government officials are concerned that Netanyahu is exploiting Germany’s friendship for his own political ends and believe Berlin should adopt a more critical stance

Asked to comment on the report, a government official told Reuters: “The guidelines of German Middle East policy have not changed.”

A spokeswoman for Merkel declined to comment and referred to the government’s regular news conference on Monday.

In Israel, too, the report was downplayed. A senior Israeli official aide Sunday told AFP that relations with Berlin are “and will continue to be close and good.”

“It seems the statements are an internal German attempt to attack Merkel for her close relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the Israeli official said.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union is generally considered to be closer to Israel than the SDP.

Merkel has said repeatedly, however, that the building of Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron is counterproductive for the goal of establishing a peaceful and lasting two-state solution in the Middle East.

In its report Der Spiegel cited concerns that the creation of a fully independent Palestinian state next to a democratic and secure Israel was becoming increasingly unlikely.

“Israel’s current policies are not contributing to the country remaining Jewish and democratic,” Norbert Roettgen, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, was quoted as saying. “We must express this concern more clearly to Israel.”

The magazine also quoted a senior official of Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), as criticizing Netanyahu.

“The perception has been growing in the German government that Netanyahu is instrumentalizing our friendship,” Rolf Muetzenich, SPD deputy floor leader in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, told the magazine.