Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been on a four-day trip to Europe, seeking support for stronger sanctions against Iran, which Israel regards as a threat to its existence. But while German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed a willingness to consider new sanctions, she also reiterated calls from the Palestinians and US President Barack Obama to halt the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has made a stop to the construction a condition for returning to Middle East peace negotiations. At a press conference on Thursday after their meeting in Berlin, Merkel agreed that stopping Jewish expansion plans was a key "building block" to resuming peace talks.
But Netanyahu told reporters that "no decision has been made."
Merkel was more open to Netanyahu's suggestion to increase pressure on Iran if it does not drop its disputed nuclear program. "If there is no positive answer by September," she said, echoing Obama's deadline, "we will have to consider further measures."
A call to "nip evil in the bud"
In Berlin, Netanyahu has made a point of reminding his hosts that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the state of Israel to be "wiped off the map."
"We cannot allow those who call for the destruction of the Jewish state to go unchallenged," he said. "We cannot allow evil to prepare the mass deaths of innocents. It should be nipped in the bud." These comments came as Netanyahu was presented with the blueprints for Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp that was located outside of Cracow, Poland
The blueprints were found in a Berlin apartment in 2008 and include detailed plans for a gas chamber and a crematorium. They were purchased by the Germany daily tabloid Bild and given to Netanyahu to pass on to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu is scheduled to wrap up his trip to Germany with a visit to the site of the 1942 Wannsee Conference outside of Berlin. There, senior Nazi officials developed plans for the "final solution" – the genocide of the Jews.
Editor: Rick Demarest