Germany Asked U.S. to Force Settlement Freeze on Israel, WikiLeaks Cables Show

Senior German official urged U.S. to threaten withdrawing its veto on an anti-Israel vote at the UN.

The WikiLeaks website exposé of the inner workings of American diplomacy continued Wednesday, with revelations that Berlin pushed for the U.S. to impose a settlement freeze on Israel.

According to a telegram published by the whistleblowing website, two weeks before Israel's inner cabinet decided on a settlement construction freeze in November 2009, a senior German government official urged the United States to threaten Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if he did not agree to a moratorium, Washington would withdraw its support for blocking a vote on the Goldstone Report at the United Nations Security Council.


The telegram shows that German National Security Adviser Christoph Heusgen met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon and with U.S. Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy on November 10, 2009 to discuss the matter. Even though German Chancellor Angela Merkel is considered one of Israel's closest friends, her senior advisers urged the Americans to step up pressure on Netanyahu.

At the time, relations between Netanyahu and Merkel were tense over German opposition to Israeli construction in the settlements. Two and a half months earlier, a planned visit by Netanyahu to the German capital was nearly canceled following a clash between Heusgen and his Israeli counterpart, Uzi Arad.

Arad had demanded that during the meeting between the two leaders, the issue of settlement construction not be raised and warned that if the Germans did not agree, Netanyahu would cancel the trip.

The German official is quoted in the telegram as saying that Germany believes that Netanyahu needed "to do more" to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table. "With Palestinians in East Jerusalem getting notices from Israeli authorities that their houses will be destroyed, it would be 'suicide' for President Abbas to move under the current circumstances. Heusgen said he could not fathom why Netanyahu did not understand this," according to the telegram.

The American telegram indicates that the German position on settlements was less tolerant than that of the Obama administration.

"He [Heusgen] suggested pressuring Netanyahu by linking favorable UNSC [United Nations Security Council] treatment of the Goldstone Report to Israel committing to a complete stop in settlement activity," according to the telegram.

The American officials were surprised by the proposal and said that such linkage would be counterproductive "but agreed that it was worth pointing out to the Israelis that their policy on settlements was making it difficult for their friends to hold the line in the UNSC." Heusgen said this certainly would be an issue when Netanyahu and "half of his cabinet" visited Berlin on November 30, 2009 for bilateral government consultations.

At the time, Arab and Muslim countries, led by Turkey and Libya, were stepping up pressure to hold discussions on the Goldstone Report at the U.N. Security Council. The U.S. administration managed to block the initiative and avoided an anti-Israeli vote.

Meanwhile, another leaked U.S. cable, dated February 2009, shows that Netanyahu supported the notion of land swaps with the Palestinians. A statement issued yesterday by the Prime Minister's Bureau said that Netanyahu meant only that he was willing to accept territorial compromises within the framework of a future peace deal.

"That was Netanyahu's open policy, that is his policy today and in the aforementioned meeting in February 2009, he did not voice any other position," the statement said. "Any other interpretation is incorrect and definitely does not represent the prime minister's position."

In the February 26, 2009, cable, written two weeks after the Israeli leader was elected, Netanyahu expressed support for the concept of land swaps and said that he did not want to govern the West Bank and Gaza but rather to stop attacks being launched from there.