Germany’s Merkel in Israel: Two countries have ‘very strong friendship’

JERUSALEM (JTA) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Israel that her country is working for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Merkel arrived in the country on Monday with nearly her entire Cabinet, whose members will meet the following day with their Israeli counterparts for a fifth joint meeting. The German delegation is in Israel for a 24-hour visit.

“We have come here with almost the whole of our new government and we wanted to show you in this way that this is indeed a very strong friendship,” Merkel said in German during a meeting with reporters Monday night prior to a dinner meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. The other ministers met over dinner with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Merkel said Germany has stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Israel over the past five decades. German news reports in recent days have indicated that Israel and Germany are at a low point in their relationship.

Israeli President Shimon Peres is scheduled to present Merkel on Tuesday with the Presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest civilian award.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday in Madrid called Israeli construction in the West Bank settlements “disruptive” and said he would discuss it with Israeli leaders when he landed there later in the day.

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