Germany’s Merkel kicks off final official visit to Israel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in West Jerusalem (Israeli Government Press Office)

Middle East Monitor  /  October 10, 2021

Germany’s outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel is touring Israel’s national Holocaust memorial on Sunday and has held talks with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in her final official visit to the country after 16 years in power, reported Reuters.

Merkel, on her eighth and final visit to Israel as she concludes her 16-year term, held talks with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose opposition to Palestinian statehood is at odds with Western powers including Germany.

Commenting on what Israel sees as an issue crucial to its security, Merkel said the coming weeks would be decisive for the future of a nuclear deal with Iran.

Germany has been a leading postwar European ally of Israel and Merkel has sought to cultivate security and economic ties, though she has differed with Israel on policies concerning the Palestinians and Iran.

“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 told Bennett at a private meeting, according to a transcript issued by his office.

Attending a later session of Bennett’s cabinet, Merkel said “the history of the Shoah (Holocaust) is a singular event for which we continue to bear responsibility in every phase of history, including in the future”.

German governments have made strong relations with Israel a top priority ever since World War Two, and Merkel has sought to boost bilateral security and economic ties. Germany is one of Israel’s top trading partners.

Bennett is expected to pay tribute to Merkel as he hosts her during a meeting of his cabinet on Sunday morning at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. Merkel, a 67-year-old trained physicist, will also receive an honorary doctorate later on Sunday from Haifa’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, in northern Israel.

Merkel had planned to conduct the visit in late August, but cancelled it citing the tense situation in Afghanistan as the United States, Germany and others evacuated personnel ahead of an August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

Following an inconclusive September 26 election, Germany’s Social Democrats are currently courting smaller parties to form a coalition that would replace a conservative grouping led by Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

Merkel plans to step down once a new government is formed.