“I assure you, Angela, the people of Israel want peace, real peace.” This was the point underlined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Jerusalem this week.
Israel wants a peace that will bring a true end to the conflict with the Palestinians. For this to happen, the Palestinians, and indeed the wider Arab world, need to recognize Israel’s right to exist and to exist as a Jewish state.
Additionally, given the violence visited against Israel in her short modern history, the Jewish state’s security concerns must be adequately addressed.
In a visit in which she brought nearly her entire cabinet to Jerusalem, Merkel largely supported Israel’s peace conditions. Both she and Netanyahu highlighted the close friendship between their two nations, with Merkel stating that Germany would continue to work “shoulder-to-shoulder” to ensure Israel’s security. According to Merkel, a key component of that future security is a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.
The Israeli media largely hailed the visit as extremely positive and evidence that far from being isolated, Israel still has very close friends among the leading nations of the West.
The local media did focus a lot of attention on German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s remarks that Jewish settlements in the so-called “West Bank” were an obstacle to peace. But that view was and has been echoed throughout the German government and opposition.
Besides discussing the peace process, Netanyahu and Merkel were able to hammer an agreement that will allow young Germans and Israelis (aged 18–30) to visit and legally work in one another’s countries for up to one year.
At the conclusion of the German delegation’s visit, Israeli President Shimon Peres presented Merkel with the Medal of Honor, Israel’s highest civilian award. Merkel is the first European politician to ever receive that honor.