German president asks Israel for ′sign′ on settlement policy | News | DW | 30.05.2012
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German president asks Israel for 'sign' on settlement policy

Talks due to last one hour extended into two when German President Joachim Gauck met with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Most of their time was spent on Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank.

Gauck used the meeting with Netanyahu to express his unease with Israel's controversial settlement policy.

"Germany and Europe would be thankful for any sign on the settlement policy," Gauck said, according to a spokesman.

"Who benefits from this policy?" he asked Netanyahu, pointing out that it made a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible.

Gauck said he sees the issue as a key to rejuvenating the Middle East peace process. But Israel's premier rejected that notion. He said the conflict could only be resolved through recognition of Israel.

'At Israel's side'

Gauck was careful to stress the importance of Germany's relationship with Israel, saying that criticism did not endanger the friendship but was merely part of an honest discussion, his spokesman said. "Germany stands in solidarity at Israel's side," Gauck said.

Watch video 01:29

President Gauck is in Israel for three days.

Gauck's foreign trips are watched carefully in Berlin, where policymakers view him as being unpredictable. The president will have piqued their interest by avoiding calling Israel's existence Germany's "reason of state" as Chancellor Angela Merkel had done in a 2008 address to the Knesset, Israel's parliament.

Netanyahu refused to extend a moratorium on the building of new settlements in the West Bank in 2010, and their erection by Jewish settlers has gathered pace since then.

ncy/rc (AFP, dpa)

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