The fifth German-Israeli intergovernmental consultations are currently taking place in Jerusalem, headed by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The aim of the talks is to further strengthen bilateral relations. To this end, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Liberman signed an arrangement on consular assistance this morning. From now on, Israeli citizens abroad will be able to seek assistance from German consular posts if Israel does not have a representation of its own where they are.
A unique connection
In an article in the Israeli daily newspaper “Yedioth Ahronoth” about the importance of the bilateral intergovernmental talks with Israel, Foreign Minister Steinmeier made it clear that the State of Israel “has a unique connection with Germany”. According to Steinmeier, against the backdrop of history this seemed “like a miracle.” Before travelling to Jerusalem, Federal Chancellor Merkel also emphasised that “by virtue of its history” Germany had a responsibility to the State of Israel. “The State of Israel’s right to exist (is) one of Germany’s fundamental guiding principles.”
On Tuesday morning, as part of the consultations, the Federal Government met with the Israeli side for a plenary session. Federal Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Netanyahu led the talks. In addition to this, Federal Government representatives held bilateral talks. Foreign Minister Steinmeier met his Israeli counterpart on Monday evening for such a talk.
This is the fifth time that the bilateral consultations have taken place. Nearly all Federal Ministers are staying in Israel on Monday and Tuesday. The first intergovernmental consultations took place in 2008 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel’s founding.
Middle East peace process central topic
The aim of the talks is to further strengthen and expand German-Israeli relations and therefore a number of topics make up the agenda for the discussions. The Federal Chancellor stressed that there was a desire to discuss “challenges of the future”. On a bilateral level, priorities include the fields of science and research, the environment and exchanges for young people. The preparations for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel in 2015 are also part of the discussions.
The Middle East peace process will play an equally “prominent role” in the consultations in Jerusalem, underlined Foreign Minister Steinmeier before the trip. He met Israel’s Minister of Justice, Tzipi Livni, as well as the Prime Minister’s aide for the peace negotiations, Isaac Molcho on Tuesday morning to discuss the process.
The Federal Government supports US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts and advocates a two-state solution. Foreign Minister Steinmeier expressed the hope that the Israeli side would “listen” to Germany’s arguments. Steinmeier went on to express the hope that the state of the peace process would be discussed and obstacles would be identified. From the German point of view, the settlement policy was an obstacle “and, naturally, we will also talk about this”, the Foreign Minister continued.
Strengthening concrete cooperation
The intergovernmental talks also addressed measures to make concrete improvements to bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Six agreements were signed on this.
An arrangement on consular cooperation was concluded by the Foreign Ministers on Tuesday morning: Foreign Ministers Steinmeier and Liberman signed a text which will enable Israeli nationals in a state of distress abroad to turn to German missions abroad for assistance if Israel does not have a representation of its own where they are.
At their press conference at Midday on Tuesday, Federal Chancellor Merkel said that the agreement was “proof of the trust” within bilateral relations. Furthermore, she was pleased that the so-called “Working Holiday Programme” had been signed by the Foreign Ministers. This arrangement facilitates longer-term holiday stays, including a work permit, for young people between 18 and 30.
Article by the Foreign Minister Steinmeier: “Israel is not alone” (published in Yedioth Ahronoth on 23 February)