In Germany Visit, Netanyahu Voices Disappointment With Merkel Over UN Vote

Sources in Netanyahu's entourage said before the meeting Netanyahu intended to tell the Chancellor he would not retract decision to advance construction plans in the West Bank between Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting in Berlin on Wednesday that he was disappointed with Germany's vote in the United Nations' General Assembly on recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state.

The meeting took place in the midst of a diplomatic crisis between Israel and the European Union states.

Sources in Netanyahu's entourage said before the meeting Wednesday that Netanyahu intended to tell Chancellor Merkel he would not retract the decision to advance construction plans in the West Bank between Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem.

The German newspaper Die Welt on Wednesday published an interview with Netanyahu, in which he presented a softer position regarding Israel's moves, especially about the construction in the West Bank: "As far as our future action is concerned, it depends on the Palestinians. If they continue to act unilaterally, then we'll respond accordingly. If they act in a more restrained way, we'll respond accordingly as well," the PM is quoted.

"... In any case what we've advanced so far is only planning, and we will have to see. We shall act further based on what the Palestinians do. If they don't act unilaterally, then we won't have any reason to do so either," Netanyahu is cited as telling Die Welt.

Netanyahu blasted the European Union states and said he supposed Israelis "have become used to not getting a fair hearing in Europe, but we expect otherwise. Because every fair-minded person knows that Israel is a beleaguered country, under attack. We're the only country threatened with genocide."

Netanyahu denied the claim that building in the E-1 area would prevent establishing a Palestinian state because it would break its contiguity.

"They're talking about a Palestinian state between Gaza and the West Bank and there's no contiguity there. Here, we're talking about an area that is one mile, two miles wide, that connects Jerusalem to a suburb that in all peace plans will remain part of Israel," he told Die Welt.

"All previous Israeli governments have had the position that this suburb of Jerusalem called Ma'aleh Adumim, which has about 40,000 people, will be part of Israel in a final settlement deal...All governments talked about the possibility of building tunnels, bridges, roads there to facilitate Palestinian movement. So to say that this will jeopardize the possibility of a Palestinian state is neither true nor responsible," he said.

Netanyahu met Merkel after another day in which Israeli ambassadors were summoned for reprimands in world capitals for Israel's decision to start a construction momentum in the West Bank following the Palestinians' request for an observer state status in the UN.

An hour before the meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was determined to stop Israel's construction plans in the West Bank with all the legal and diplomatic means he could muster.

"The settlement plan Israel announced is a red line," Abbas said. "It must not happen."

Netanyahu came to Berlin after a brief visit to Prague, in which he thanked his counterpart Petr Necas for his friendship and courage in his country's vote at the UN against recognizing a Palestinian state.

The Czech Republic was the only European country and one of nine worldwide that voted last week to reject the resolution upgrading the Palestinians' status to a non-member observer state. It passed 138-9, with 41 abstentions.

Netanyahu said in a brief statement to reporters the UN vote "completely ignored Israel's security needs, it didn't require the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state (and ) it didn't even call on them to end the conflict with Israel."

He compared the Czech Republic's situation in 1938, when the Sudetes was annexed to Germany as part of the Munich Agreement, to the international objection to building in the settlements.

"History has shown us time and again that what is right is not what is popular, and if there is a people in the world who can appreciate that, it's the people of your country," he said.

"The world forced this proud democracy to sacrifice its vital interests. The international community applauded almost uniformly without exception. They hailed this as something that would bring peace...But rather than bring peace, those forced concessions from Czechoslovakia paved the way to the worst war in history," he said.

Israel has been "committed to a genuine peace" with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said. But a two-state solution to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians should be reached only through direct peace talks and not by unilateral moves, he said.

"It will not be resolved through one-sided resolutions of the UN that ignore Israel's vital needs and undermine the basic foundations of peace," he said.

Necas echoed the Israeli position by saying "only the direct talks of the two sides" can solve their conflict.

Worlds apart? German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: Emil Salman

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