Netanyahu Heads to Germany for Reconciliation With Merkel

The prime minister will meet with the German Chancellor for the first time since a tense phone conversation between the two in February.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected in Germany on Wednesday for his first meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel since the current round of upheavals in the Middle East, and since the two leaders apparently exchanged harsh words during a telephone conversation in February.

A spokesman for Netanyahu said the two leaders would discuss the latest events in the region, saying he was "sure" that the issue of how to move forward with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would come up.

Michal Fattal

"Israel has an intimate dialogue with Germany which encompasses many issues, such as diplomacy, politics and security," the spokesman said.

In February, Netanyahu called Merkel to discuss Germany's vote in the United Nations Security Council in favor of the Palestinian proposal to condemn construction in West Bank settlements. Government sources denied reports of a tense and angry  conversation between the two.

Merkel told Netanyahu at that time that he had disappointed her, and had done nothing to advance peace, sources told Haaretz. Netanyahu tried to persuade Merkel that he was about to launch a diplomatic initiative, saying that he would make a speech in two weeks in which he would outline a new peace plan. He never made that speech.

After their tense conversation, Israeli officials told Merkel's advisers it was important to clear the air. Merkel then in mid-March invited Netanyahu for a reconciliation visit to Berlin.

Netanyahu is also scheduled to visit Prague on Thursday for meetings with Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Petr Necas. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will accompany Netanayhu to Berlin, but not to the Czech Republic.

Merkel visited Israel at the end of January and met with Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni the following day. The visit to Israel, although preplanned, was overshadowed by the unrest that has engulfed Israel's regional neighbor Egypt.