German FM After Meeting Netanyahu: Is Israel Prepared to Pay the Price of Perpetual Occupation?

In highly critical speech, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says Germany looks forward to moving its embassy to Jerusalem, but only as shared capital

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German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel speaks during the 11th Annual International Institute for National Security Studies Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel on January 31, 2018.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel speaks during the 11th Annual International Institute for National Security Studies Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel on January 31, 2018. Credit: \ AMIR COHEN REUTERS
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

In a highly critical speech, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed concern Wednesday about the growing distance within Israel's current government from the two-state solution, saying that it exhibits "at best mixed signals [which] do not go unnoticed in Europe, where there is growing frustration with Israel's actions." 

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Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv following a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he pointed to a changing geopolitical landscape and a shift in U.S. priorities abroad. The U.S is "less willing to shoulder the responsibility - and the costs - of the international liberal order," said Gabriel. "We regret this - but this doesn’t change the fact: We have to react and adjust."

Posing a rhetorical question to Israel's exceptionally close relationship with the U.S. he said, "With regard to the Palestinians and the Iran question the Americans are taking your side more clearly than ever before. But is this really only a good thing?" he asked.

Addressing Israeli academics, politicians and policy experts about Israel's conflict with the Palestinians, Gabriel said "as a friend and close ally, we need to know if Israel is not supporting a negotiated solution to this conflict anymore."

Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Sigmar Gabriel

Gabriel noted the difficulties violence, incitement and settlement building pose to the success of two states living side by side in peace, but asked those who oppose the two-state solution: "How do you want Israel's future to look like? Are you prepared to pay the price of perpetual occupation and dconflict - a price that will continue to grow if there is no hope for self-determination on the Palestinian side? Are you willing to bear the consequences of fully fledged annexation - a one-state reality of unequal rights? Or are you ready to accept a single democratic state between the sea and the river?"

Answering himself, he said, "I admit that I am worried by these questions and especially by the lack of convincing answers so far." 

"And now the good news," he prompted. "Germany is looking forward to the day when it will be able to move its Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But let me add: in two states with Jerusalem as their capital.

Gabriel stressed that "There is no shortcut here" and recognized that "Both parties have legitimate aspirations with regard to Jerusalem, and a solution can only be found in negotiations. We believe this move must come in support of the implementation of a negotiated two-state solution based on the 67 line. Until then we will follow international law regarding the status of the occupied territories."

Netanyahu met with Gabriel earlier on Wednesday, 10 months after the prime minister canceled a meeting between the two over Gabriel's refusal to snub Israeli human-rights organizations Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem.

Gabriel noted that Germany is still very much in favor of the two-state solution, adding that he is happy to hear that Israel also wants two states, but with secure borders. Netanyahu replied saying "I rather not discuss labels. We will control security... That is the first condition to whether or not it's defined as a state."

He added that Germany will talk to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and will try to return to the negotiating table with the United States and see how they will be able to contribute.

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