German-Israel Ties at All-time Low as Merkel Prepares to Visit Israel

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Relations between Germany and Israel are at an all-time low, according to an article published in Der Spiegel on Tuesday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to arrive in Israel next Monday for consultations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Deals on smaller issues may be possible during next week's meetings, Der Spiegel writes, "but divisions over Israeli settlements will persist."

Merkel and Netanyahu have resorted to shouting at each other on the phone on a number of occasions while discussing Israeli policies toward Palestinians, the magazine writes, "but relations between the two countries have never been as difficult during Merkel's three terms in office as they are now."

The view in Berlin is that the Netanyahu government is both incapable and unwilling when it comes to pushing forward in the peace process with the Palestinians. Israelis, on the other hand, feel abandoned by the Germans. "The conflict has deteriorated to the point that some are questioning the special relationship status between the two countries."

Given the absence of trust, "small disputes are turning into bigger ones," Der Spiegel writes. As an example, it points to the Horizon 2020 agreement that European money for research subsidies cannot flow into the occupied territories. The German government now wants that language to be included in two bilateral agreements. Israel, of course, is opposed.

Merkel is anxious to defuse the tensions, according to Der Spiegel. "To demonstrate how important relations are, she has called on all of her ministers to travel to Israel next week. She's never taken such a step ahead of government consultations with Israel in the past."

But the chancellor has not indicated any willingness to bend on what is proving to be the biggest sticking point – Israel's settlement policy. She and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier both believe that Israeli's settlement policy represents a decisive barrier to the peace process. "It's also something they don't shy away from saying in public, much to the Israeli's chagrin."

Merkel, who broke her hip while skiing, walks past carnival enthusiasts in Berlin.Credit: AFP

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