Ahead of the UNGA Vote |

'Germany Abstaining at UN Because Israel Wouldn't Budge on Settlements'

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The German decision not to oppose the Palestinian bid for non-member observer state status, and to abstain in the vote at the United Nations General Assembly this evening has shocked the top brass at the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's office. A top German official who took part in discussions in Berlin, however, stressed that the writing was on the wall.

The senior German official, who has requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, has told Haaretz that Germany has been trying to help Israel on the Palestinian issue for a long time but Israel has not taken the necessary steps to advance the peace process. “The Israelis,” he said, “did not respond in any way to our request to make a gesture on settlements.”

Indecisive and confusing Israeli conduct surrounding the Palestinian's move at the UN has angered decision-makers in Germany. The Germans feel that they have been taken advantage of by Israel, and that the latter has been secretive and uncooperative.

According to the high-ranking German official, “The resolution,” to recognize a Palestinian state that will be passed today in the General Assembly, “is positive in one sense – it clearly recognizes the two-state solution and the right of existence of the state of Israel.”

The German decision to abstain in the UN vote is expected to exacerbate the considerable tension between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has been an issue in recent years, regardless of the current situation. There is a great deal of anger  among officials in the Prime Minister's Office, over the change in Germany’s position, especially in light of the fact that until this morning the messages coming from the Germans indicated that it was their intention to vote against the resolution.

A summit meeting between the government of Israel and the government of Germany is scheduled for next week in Berlin. Presumably the disagreement concerning the vote at the UN will cast a shadow on the discussions.

Ever since Netanyahu became prime minister four years ago, his relations with Chancellor Merkel have been very strained. Numerous times, Merkel felt that Netanyahu did not keep promises he had made to her, and she was especially angry at the continuation of the construction in the settlements.

One of the peaks in the crisis between Merkel and Netanyahu occurred in February of 2011 – then too in the context of the nature of a vote at the UN when the Germans lined up with the U.K. and France, and voted in favor of a Security Council resolution condemning construction in West Bank settlements.

At that time Haaretz revealed that in the wake of the vote Netanyahu phoned Merkel and voiced his disappointment. Merkel reacted angrily to Netanyahu’s remarks and said it was he who had disappointed her by not having lifted a finger to advance the peace process.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Italian officials stated that Italy will support the Palestinians in their UN bid. Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bild posted on his blog on Thursday that Sweden will also vote in support of the Palestinians at the UN. 

Palestinians take part in a rally in support of the efforts of President Mahmoud Abbas to secure a diplomatic upgrade at the United Nations, in Gaza City November 29, 2012. Credit: Reuters
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A Palestinian refugee in Lebanon waves her national flag during a gathering outside the United Nations headquarters in Beirut on November 29, 2012.Credit: AFP
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Palestinians take part in a rally in support of the efforts of President Mahmoud Abbas (pictured in poster) to secure a diplomatic upgrade at the United Nations, in Gaza City November 29, 2012.Credit: Reuters
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People gather in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on November 29, 2012.Credit: AFP

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