Germany's foreign minister ended a 15-hour trip to Israel warning the country against abandoning a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He called on Israel to clarify its policy on Mideast peace talks.
Israel must clarify its position on peace talks with Palestinians or risk "perpetual occupation and conflict," German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Wednesday at a security conference in Tel Aviv.
"As a friend and close ally, we need to know if Israel is not supporting a negotiated solution to this conflict anymore," he said. "What exactly is Israel's strategy in this conflict?"
Germany and the European Union support the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution to the long-standing conflict.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said Palestinians should govern themselves but has not clarified whether that would mean an independent state or greater autonomy within Israel. A majority of lawmakers in Netanyahu's Likud party reject a Palestinian state.
"Are you prepared to pay the price of perpetual occupation and conflict — a price that will continue to grow if there is no hope for self-determination on the Palestinian side?" Gabriel asked.
He also suggested European countries may reduce aid to Israel if the country abandons the two-state solution. The proposal, Gabriel said, was the "foundation of our engagement for Israeli-Palestinian peace and for the large amount of funding that Germany and Europe make available in support of the situation on the ground."
Gabriel's speech at the conference marked the end of a 15-hour trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories that included earlier meetings with Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
During a joint press conference with Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister interrupted Gabriel after he said he was thankful to hear "the government of Israel wants to have two states."
"Whether or not it's defined as a state when we have the military control is another matter, but I'd rather not discuss labels, but substance," Netanyahu said, referring to the West Bank, a Palestinian territory.
Gabriel's visit to Israel was his first since Netanyahu canceled a meeting with him in April after Gabriel refused to call off meetings with Israeli civic organizations that have been critical of Netanyahu's government.
Gabriel acknowledged the previous spat on Wednesday, saying, "We don't speak about that anymore."
In response, Netanyahu said, "It is always an honor to meet a member of the German government."