Merkel under pressure to criticize Israel on historic visit

16th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Some German politicians want her to raise points of difference between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government and the Palestinians.

Berlin -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under pressure to use her historic three-day visit to Israel at the head of a large cabinet delegation to criticize the Jewish state over its settlement policy.

The head of the German-Israeli parliamentary group, the Greens politician Jerzy Montag, said Merkel should raise points of difference between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government and the Palestinians.

Social Democrat foreign policy spokesman Rolf Muetzenich seconded this view, while Werner Hoyer, a foreign policy spokesman for the liberal FDP regretted that Merkel was not seeing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the visit.

Merkel's office said the chancellor had spoken to Abbas by phone on Friday concerning the status of the current talks initiated by US President George W. Bush at Annapolis last year.

Abbas had asked Merkel to raise the issue of Israeli plans to restart the building of settlements in East Jerusalem, saying that this was hampering the Annapolis process.

Abbas welcomed a German proposal to hold a conference on the Middle East in Berlin in June with the aim of boosting efforts to build an effective judicial system and police force in a future Palestinian state.

Merkel pledged to report back to the Palestinian leader on her return from Israel.

Merkel's visit to Israel at the head of a political, business and scientific delegation, to mark 60 years since the founding of the state has been billed in Germany as an "exceptional" event.

The Israeli parliament has changed its rules of procedure to allow Merkel to address it on Tuesday.

In her weekly broadcast Saturday, Merkel underlined "the special and future-oriented relations between our two countries."

She noted that plans to hold annual government consultations at cabinet level with Israel were a first for Germany outside Europe.

During her trip, Merkel is to visit the grave of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, and the Holocaust Memorial of Yad Vashem.

DPA with Expatica

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