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Merkel touts Germany-Israel relations at Bennett meeting

October 10, 2021

On her last visit to Israel as the German chancellor, Merkel vowed that Israeli security would remain a top priority for Germany. Israel's prime minister said Germany was a "true friend" under Merkel's leadership.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem on October 10, 2021
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on her eighth official trip to IsraelImage: Menahem KAHANA/AFP

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a final official visit to Israel on Sunday, saying that Israel's security would be a top priority for "every German government."

The trip marks her eighth visit during her 16-year term in office – years which were characterized by widespread support for Israel. She held talks with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett before visiting Jerusalem's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.

The chancellor also laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem in the presence of Bennett. "The fact that Jewish life has found a home again in Germany after the crimes of humanity of the Shoah is an immeasurable sign of trust, for which we are grateful," Merkel wrote in the guestbook.

She also called it a "stroke of good fortune" that after the Holocaust, which saw the Nazis kill 6 million Jewish people, that "it has been possible to reset and to re-establish relations between Germany and Israel to the extent that we have done."

"I want to use this opportunity to emphasize that the topic of Israel's security will always be of central importance and a central topic of every German government," she said, standing alongside Bennett.

Germany a 'true friend' of Israel

Bennett, meanwhile, described Merkel as a great friend of Israel, and praised the relationship between the two countries.

"The relationship between Germany and Israel has been strong, but in your term, it has never been stronger,'' Bennett said.

"It has become more than just an alliance. It has become a true friendship  thanks to your leadership. We're looking forward to strengthening it even more in business relations, science, education, health and of course, in security."

There were, however, no plans for Merkel to meet Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister who is now Israel's opposition leader. She was also not scheduled to meet with Palestinian leaders in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

What else did Merkel say?

Merkel also commented on Iran, saying that the leaders were in "very decisive weeks now regarding the future of the nuclear deal with Iran."

"We want to send an unmistakable message to Iran that they must quickly return to the negotiating table," she added.

She also called on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping to help push Iran back into negotiations. 

The comments come after revelations that Iran was enriching significantly more uranium than the UN nuclear watchdog had reported last month.

Stable relations despite disagreements

Merkel and Netanyahu have sometimes had differing views on the occupied Palestinian territories. However, relations have remained mostly stable.

"We sometimes disagree on questions such as whether there should be a two-state solution with the Palestinians, but we agree, I think, that there must always be a vision of a lasting democratic Jewish State of Israel," Merkel told Bennett's Cabinet.

Germany is Israel's largest trading partner in Europe, and the German government has provided support to Israel during wars and diplomatic crises.

Sunday's visit had been planned for late August, but Merkel postponed the trip, citing the tense situation in Afghanistan.

lc/fb (AP, AFP, Reuters)