Merkel: Germany Won’t Normalize Relations With Iran Until It Recognizes Israel

Germany will not fully normalize ties with Iran until it recognizes Israel, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin Tuesday.

Although German government and business leaders have been making overtures to Iran in recent months after the Islamic Republic’s economy was freed up by the lifting of international sanctions as part of the nuclear deal, Merkel reiterated that “We made very clear—the federal government, all parties that make up the coalition—that there cannot exist normal, friendly relations with Iran as long as Iran doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist….In all conversations [with Iranian counterparts], my ministers, and I myself if applicable, have made this clear.”

She also criticized France’s recent proposal to hold a peace conference and unilaterally accept Palestinian statehood if the conference failed. Instead, Merkel advocated for a cautious, step-by-step approach towards achieving a two-state solution. “Now is certainly not the time to make really comprehensive progress, but you can achieve improvements in certain places,” she said.

The European Union, and Germany as a member state, is very concerned about seeing things realistically. We know the threat of terrorism that Israel has to endure. We believe, on the other hand, that we have to advance a process of peaceful coexistence, and this, according to our opinion, is ultimately built on a two-state solution.

She went on to say that Germany would gladly offer to help towards achieving coexistence, “especially regarding questions of economic development.”

The French proposal was “bizarre,” Netanyahu told the Times of Israel. “It says: We will hold an international conference but if you do not succeed we are already predetermining the result – we will recognize a Palestinian state.” He later elaborated:

Of course this ensures that this conference will fail because if the Palestinians know that their demand will be met a priori, and they do not need to do anything, then there is certainly an internal contradiction here, because they will not do anything. There is one way to advance peace – direct negotiations without preconditions between the sides. This is the true way, and I think that anyone who tries to deviate from it will not advance successful negotiations.

Netanyahu stated that Merkel’s remarks showed that his observation last year that the time is not right for a two-state solution has been gaining traction. “When I said it a year ago, everyone came out and attacked me viciously,” Netanyahu said. “Today we hear same things from the leaders of the world, not only from [U.S. President Barack] Obama [who has stated he no longer believes Israeli-Palestinian peace can be achieved in the coming months] and Merkel. Even the leader of the opposition [in Israel, Isaac Herzog] understands it now.”

In the joint press conference, Netanyahu praised Merkel and the German-Israel relationship. “It’s an example of how, despite the unparalleled horrors of the past, our two peoples have forged a unique and constructive friendship,” he said. “And I believe that this offers hope for the entire world.”

The German broadcaster Deutsche Welle noted that although Merkel and Netanyahu have not always seen eye-to-eye, they appeared to be more in accord over the peace process in their latest meeting. The report observed that given the growing refugee crisis and threat of Islamist terror,  Israel “has become a center of stability.” The report is embedded below.

[Photo: dw (English) / YouTube ]