Germany’s Lime-Duck chancellor, Angela Merkel, was in Israel for her last visit before leaving office on Sunday.
The visit marks Merkel’s 16-year term, which was characterized by almost unwavering support for Israel. After an inconclusive election last month, his eventual successor – to be determined in lengthy coalition talks – is not expected to change that approach.
Merkel was scheduled to meet Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, on Sunday and visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial. His talks with Israeli leaders were expected to focus on Iran’s nuclear program.
Germany was a leading player in the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran. The deal fell apart in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal with Israel’s support. The Biden administration is trying to revive that deal over Israel’s objections.
Israel was formed in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust and the two countries established diplomatic relations only in 1965. But over the decades those relationships have warmed.
Germany is Israel’s largest trading partner in Europe and the German government has provided solid support to Israel during wars and diplomatic crises.
Merkel and the former Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had good relations due to their sometimes bad personal chemistry and differences over the Palestinian issue. Germany supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, while both Netanyahu and Bennett do not. But these differences have done little to upset the wider partnership.
Merkel had no plans to meet with Netanyahu, who is now Israel’s opposition leader. She was also not scheduled to meet with Palestinian leaders in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Oded Aran, Israel’s former ambassador to the European Union, said Merkel built on the policies of her predecessors. He cited security cooperation, defended Israel against criticism in the European Union and took a tough stance on anti-Semitism.
“His predecessors started out, but they definitely strengthened it and brought it to new levels,” he said.
Merkel was scheduled to visit in August, but the visit was postponed following the crisis in Afghanistan in which the Taliban seized power. He then delayed the visit until after last month’s German election. She now holds office in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed, a process that can take weeks or even months.
The September 26 vote saw Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union’s worst election result ever, and party leader Armin Lasquet signaled his willingness to step aside.
Center-left Social Democrats, environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats held their first round of talks Thursday on forming a potential coalition. If they are successful, the coalition will send Merkel’s faction into the opposition.
Associated Press correspondent Ilan Ben Zion contributed reporting.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Angela Merkel