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Germany's Merkel cancels high-level meeting with Israel, citing federal elections

An Israeli government spokesman has confirmed the cancellation of a high-level meeting between both governments. The primary reason was Berlin's concern over the retroactive legalization of settlements, local media said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel canceled a high-level meeting with the Israeli government, in part over the country's latest legislative attempt to legalize settlement activity in the West Bank, local media reported on Monday.

An Israeli government spokesman confirmed the meeting had been canceled by the German side, saying it was due to the "variety of international appointments within the context of the German presidency of the G20."

Although officials said the annual meeting between both governments' cabinets had been forfeited this year due to the German federal election in September, Israeli newspaper "Haaretz" reported it was also due to Merkel's alarm over the settlement legalization law.

However, the daily reported that another unnamed senior Israeli official noted that the law "had not been brought up" when Berlin notified Israel of the cancelation.

The law, passed by parliament last week, allows for the expropriation of private Palestinian land by retroactively legalizing 4,000 settler settlements homes.

The move has been criticized by the international community for undermining a UN-backed two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

'Profoundly shaken'

In the wake of the legislation, Germany's foreign ministry slammed the retroactive legalization of settlements in the West Bank in a notably frustrated statement.

"The confidence we had in the Israeli government's commitment to the two-state solution has been profoundly shaken," the ministry said.

"We follow these developments with great concern and have repeatedly voiced our view. Building settlements in the occupied territories, also in east Jerusalem, contravenes international law and jeopardizes a lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians," it added.

Domestically, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has denounced the legislation, saying it could create an environment in which Israel is "seen as an apartheid state."

"Sovereignty over the states needs to happen collectively, for all its citizens," Rivlin said, according to local broadcaster i24. "It can't be that in one area of land these are separate codes of law for Israelis and non-Israelis."

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Israel's Naftali Bennett | Conflict Zone

ls/rc (dpa, JTA)

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