German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday said she does not support boycotts of Israel, but that Germany is obliged to follow European Union guidelines on the labeling of goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
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Merkel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, where the leaders addressed various topics, including the alleged Israeli strike against Hezbollah targets, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Iranian nuclear program and Israel-Germany relations.
Merkel added that Israel and Germany don’t always see eye-to-eye on Israeli settlements, but that she hopes the two nations can overcome their disagreements on the matter. Netanyahu said that boycotts of Israel only make the prospect of Middle East peace more remote, harm the Palestinian economy and the very Palestinians working in Israeli settlements.
There can be criticism of Israel, Netanyahu said, but those who call for the boycott against it don't call for that against any other country. They single out the only democracy in the Middle East, he said.
Netanyahu added that he hopes other European leaders follow in Merkel's footsteps on the boycott issue, but said any EU boycott against Israel would push it toward other global markets interested in Israeli technology.
The two leaders also discussed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to secure a framework agreement for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Netanyahu reiterated his support for a two-state solution – and his demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state. Merkel said she supports Kerry's efforts, and emphasized that Germany backs Israel's security demands in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
As for the Iranian nuclear program, Netanyahu said the Islamic Republic is continuing its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and repeated his hardline stance, saying he believes in zero enrichment, zero centrifuges and zero plutonium in Iran. He added that other nations in the Middle East agree with him on this issue, but avoid stating it publicly.
Merkel concurred that a nuclear Iran is a threat – both to Israel and Europe, which can be targeted by Iran's ballistic missile program.
Netanyahu told Merkel that her visit to Israel attests to the strength of Israeli-German relations and that, under her leadership, Germany has demonstrated a firm commitment to Israeli security.
Merkel and almost all ministers of her coalition landed in Israel Monday for two days of joint cabinet consultations. She will be presented Israel's highest civilian award by President Shimon Peres on Tuesday, for her "unwavering commitment to Israel's security and the fight against anti-Semitism and racism."