German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to arrive in Israel on Wednesday evening for a two-day bilateral meeting between German and Israeli officials, The Times of Israel reported.
Government-to-government meetings of the type Merkel is scheduled to take part in highlight the close relationship between Israel and Germany. In June, during the last round of talks between the two countries, officials agreed that the next meeting would focus on the economy, innovation and technology.
The talks, however, will also center on areas of disagreement, such as Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Merkel, who is often dubbed “the unofficial leader of Europe,” is a leading advocate for the JCPOA, known as the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
On Merkel’s agenda is a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, as well as a visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. Merkel previously visited the site in 2006 and 2008. The German leader will also receive her third honorary doctorate from an Israeli university.
“Germany and Israel are connected with a unique relationship. Out of the heritage of our history, out of the break of civilization that was the Holocaust, we Germans have a special responsibility for the relationship with Israel,” Merkel said Friday in a video for her weekly podcast.
“We can be very thankful that today we’re close partners and friends,” she noted.
Not on her schedule is a trip to the Palestinian territories, but Merkel’s visit to Israel has prompted calls for the German chancellor to cancel her trip should Israel proceed with the planned demolition of a Bedouin village in the West Bank. Israel maintains, per ruling of the country’s High Court, that the village of Khan al-Ahmar was illegally built and offered to resettle residents a few miles away.
Germany and Israel are also at odds about the future of the Iran nuclear deal. This week, BILD, the country’s biggest paper and Europe’s best-selling publication, came out against trade deals with the Islamic Republic. “This Iran cannot at this time be an ally, neither in the fight against terrorism, nor as an oil supplier or trade partner,” the newspaper said. Iran’s missile launches into Syria were a “message of terror. Because they carry the meter-long inscriptions ‘Death to Israel and ‘Death to the USA’ – and that is deadly serious for the mullahs.”
Writing in Tablet Magazine last week, Benjamin Weinthal a Berlin-based fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said “It should be noted that the German government not only rejects U.S. sanctions but also provides state credit guarantees to German companies that do business in the Islamic Republic, as means of facilitating German trade with Iran.”
Weinthal speculated that Germany’s embrace of Iran is largely motivated by lucrative business deals, at the expense of national security and regional stability in the Middle East. According to Weinthal, “Germany exported $3.42 billion in merchandise to Iran in 2017” and “German-Iranian trade could soon surpass $10 billion per year.” He added that “Approximately 120 German companies operate inside the Islamic Republic, and 10,000 German businesses conduct trade with Iran.”
[Photo: IsraeliPM / YouTube ]