He may not end up meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Tuesday, but German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has already met with Zionist Camp head and opposition leader Yitzchak Herzog. The two met early Tuesday, with Herzog thanking Gabriel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for their “ongoing and strong support for Israel” in the political, economic and scientific spheres.
PM Netanyahu’s Office said late Monday that the prime minister would not meet with Gabriel unless the FM canceled his meeting with leftist groups, including Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. Government officials quoted on Israel Radio Tuesday said that Gabriel “is showing very poor diplomatic form. When visiting a sovereign country, and an ally to boot, it is customary for foreign officials to run their schedules by officials, in order to ensure they are not breaking protocol or putting their host in an embarrassing position.”
During his meeting with Minister Gabriel, Mr. Herzog expressed his misgivings at the meetings. “The IDF faces major terror threats in a very complicated environment, and it has been proven over and over that the army operates in full compliance with international laws and conventions, ensuring human rights, and often taking risks to their own lives.”
The leftist groups unfairly present one side of the issue, and put IDF soldiers in a bad light, Mr. Herzog told Minister Gabriel. “Just a few days ago, a Palestinian who was on a tour in Israel stabbed several Israelis in the heart of Tel Aviv, and last week several Gazans who came to Israel for medical treatment were found to be carrying explosives for use in terror attacks among their medications.”
On the two-state solution, however, Mr. Herzog told Minsiter Gabriel that the two see eye to eye. “We cannot lose sight of the need for the two-state solution, and I work for this all the time. It’s something that nearly cost me my political career in the last elections,” he said, adding that he would welcome a revival of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, although “the incitement to violence [by the Palestinians] must end.”
According to the reports, Germany has been pressuring Israel to enter into a new round of talks with the Palestinians, and has criticized the recent relaxation of barriers to building in Yehudah and Shomron. Several weeks ago, Germany, along with France and Britain, condemned the government’s decision to establish a new settlement for Amona evacuees, with a German Foreign Ministry official saying that Berlin “expects the Israeli government to clarify which solution they are pursuing for a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Germany will not recognize any change in the 1967 lines, which has not been agreed between the parties.”
A German report also said that a meeting between Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was “postponed” as part of Berlin’s protests against the Settlement Arrangements Law, which will allow the government to compensate Arabs who claim ownership of land on which Jewish homes in Yehudah and Shomron are built.
In the past, Minister Gabriel has gone so far as to call Israel an “apartheid state” over what he said were “discriminatory policies” against Palestinians. He is considered to be one of the prime movers in the German government for a renewed role for Germany and Europe in the Middle East crisis, especially given the vacuum left by the United States, which under President Donald Trump has so far taken a hands-off approach, if not favoring Israel and its settlement policies.