German FM says Trump support not necessarily good for Israel

AP News
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Posted: Jan 31, 2018 11:01 AM
German FM says Trump support not necessarily good for Israel

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed his grave concern Wednesday for Israel's future, telling an academic conference that the government's ambivalence toward a Palestinian state showed a lack of direction and suggesting that President Donald Trump's unflinching support wasn't necessarily in Israel's best interest.

Germany is one of Israel's closest and most important allies, and Gabriel stressed he was worried about its path given the prolonged stalemate in peace talks.

"As a friend of Israel, and as a foreign minister of a country with a special commitment to your country's security, I am sincerely concerned about Israel's mid- to long-term options," he said in an address to the Institute for National Security Studies' annual conference.

"What exactly is Israel's strategy in this conflict? Some members of Israel's Cabinet are explicitly against the two-state solution ... these, at best, mixed signals do not go unnoticed in Europe where there is clearly growing frustration with Israel's actions."

In an open challenge to critics of a Palestinian state, Gabriel asked: "How do you want Israel's future to look like? Are you prepared to pay the price of perpetual occupation?"

Gabriel warned Israel against being lulled into indecision because of the warm embrace of the Trump administration, which recently recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and has been critical of the Palestinian leadership.

"The Americans are taking your side more clearly than ever before, but is this really only a good thing? When I think of the likely consequences I think this is more ambivalent," Gabriel said.

He said the U.S. had long acted as an "arbiter" in the region despite its close ties to Israel, citing the 1979 peace deal with Egypt as an example. But he asked: "Can the Americans still play such a role if they take sides so openly?"

Earlier, Gabriel met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Standing alongside Netanyahu, Gabriel said: "Israel always can count on Germany as a fair partner to defend the security of Israel."

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Netanyahu abruptly canceled a meeting last April with Gabriel over his meeting with Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli army veterans critical of the country's military actions in the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli leaders oppose the group's work, citing the anonymity of its claims and its outreach efforts abroad to foreign audiences.

Gabriel also met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, where he said there was no alternative to a Palestinian state alongside Israel and expressed reservations over Trump's recent moves.

"The status of Jerusalem must be negotiated between the two parties, and shouldn't be imposed by any external power, and this is not only the position of Germany but also the position of the entire EU," he said.

"The peace process is going through tough times," he added.