With Israel and European Union states embroiled in a diplomatic crisis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday night in Berlin.
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Merkel, who has had a rocky relationship with Netanyahu over the past four years, is expected to stress that the Israeli leader must choose between promoting the peace process, including establishing a Palestinian state, or facing international seclusion.
Despite the diplomatic crisis and the tension with Netanyahu, Merkel insisted on holding the government summit with Israel in Berlin. A senior German official said that Merkel had never considered a sanction as severe as halting the supply of nuclear submarines to Israel, since "as far as she's concerned, Israel's security is sacred."
The official added that the government summit was Merkel's idea of cementing and constitutionalizing the German-Israeli relationship so that it is not dependent on the politics of either state.
This main issue of this year's government summit is science. Leading scientists from both countries are scheduled to join senior ministers.
Netanyahu arrives in Berlin less than one week after the United Nations General Assembly recognized Palestine as an observer state. In contrast to recent years, Germany refrained from assisting Israel's diplomatic efforts at the UN. The chancellor was raging at Netanyahu's conduct and decided, at the last moment, to abstain instead of voting against the resolution. Netanyahu reacted angrily to Germany's vote, and his national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, had a heated phone call with Merkel's senior adviser, Christoph Heusgen.
Merkel reversed course on the UN vote for at least two reasons. First, for four years she has repeatedly requested gestures of goodwill from Netanyahu on the settlement issue - but he has refused. Second, Merkel apparently felt her support was being taken for granted and used as a tool to manipulate other European states on the Palestinian issue.
Der Speigel reported on Monday another possible reason. On the eve of the vote, she received a phone call from Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, musical director of the Berlin Opera. Barenboim, known for his severe criticism of Israel's policies in the Palestinian territories, requested that the chancellor not oppose the Palestinian move, and noted that the resolution mentions the two-state solution and Israel's right to exist.
From the start, Netanyahu and Merkel have clashed on the question of settlements. Merkel apparently often felt she was misled by Netanyahu, such as when he leaked specific parts of their conversations and did not fulfill promises on the Palestinian issue.
It is commonly known in Berlin that Merkel has no illusions regarding Netanyahu's intentions as far as the peace process goes, and no longer believe he will surprise anyone with a sudden change of direction. Apparently, as far as Merkel is concerned, Netanyahu cares more about tactics and political survival than about a long-term strategy that would secure the future of Israel and the Jewish state.
Netanyahu should expect to hear some unequivocal messages concerning the punitive measures Israel announced against the Palestinian Authority, as well as his plans to promote construction in the E-1 area, which would connect Ma'aleh Adumim settlement with Jerusalem, and to add 3,000 units in the West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem.
In contrast to France and Britain, Germany did not summon the Israeli ambassador; Merkel apparently prefers to hold a tough discussion directly with Netanyahu. The chancellor is expected to demand that Netanyahu cancel the settlement decision, or at least commit to freezing its implementation immediately after the elections in Israel.
Merkel is expected to tell Netanyahu that he must choose between promoting the peace process and establishing a Palestinian state, a move that would secure the existence of Israel as a Jewish democratic state, or continue expanding settlements, thus leading to the transformation of Israel into an apartheid state that is isolated internationally.