The root cause of the conflict are rival claims to the area between Jordan and the Mediterranean. The State of Israel, founded on 14 May 1948, covers 78 percent of this area; in turn, the Palestinians are seeking an independent Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six‑Day War (the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip). The final status issues remain unresolved: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, agreements on security and borders.
Relations between Israel and many Arab countries are strained: diplomatic relations exist only with Egypt and Jordan (established in the peace treaties of 1979 and 1994 respectively). Israel is formally still at war with its neighbours Lebanon and Syria.
Germany’s position: A negotiated two-state solution
Germany’s Middle East policy is anchored in Europe’s policy on the region. Due to its history, Germany bears a special responsibility for the security of the State of Israel. At the same time, Germany recognises the right of the Palestinians to their own state. Germany and its partners believe an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state existing side by side in peace and security with Israel can only be achieved through negotiations. Only a negotiated two‑state solution can meet the legitimate demands of both sides and settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on an enduring basis.
Germany’s long‑term objective is not just a negotiated settlement to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict but a comprehensive Israeli‑Arab peace solution which also includes other spheres of conflict in the Middle East: the unresolved conflicts between Israel and Syria and between Israel and Lebanon.
The most recent attempt to initiate negotiations between the parties to the conflict was launched by US Secretary of State Kerry in 2013 and 2014. Despite intensive US efforts, it was not possible to get the two parties to reach an agreement. The peace process has been stagnating since late April 2014. As long as a resumption of negotiations, which remains the goal of German and European Middle East policy, is not in sight, the German Government will seek above all to maintain the basis of the two-state solution.
On 1 July 2016, the Middle East Quartet (EU, UN, US, Russia) presented a report identifying the main obstacles on the road to a two-state solution. In this report, the Quartet calls on the conflict parties to underpin their declared commitment to a two-state solution by undertaking concrete measures. Together with the EU, Germany is pushing for the recommendations to be implemented in order to create the necessary conditions for a negotiated two-state solution.
Arab peace initiative
Building on the initiative of the then Saudi Crown Prince and later King Abdallah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Arab League Summit on 27/28 March 2002 launched the Arab peace initiative. Following on from the Annapolis Conference, the states of the Arab League reaffirmed in 2007 that they would continue their initiative.
This peace initiative calls on Israel to withdraw to the borders it had prior to the outbreak of the Six‑Day War in 1967. In return for this, the Arab states reaffirm that they will regard the Israeli-Arab conflict as over, conclude a peace agreement with Israel, ensure security for all states in the region and, moreover, normalise relations with Israel. A joint solution is to be found for the refugee problem.
What is the European Union doing to support the peace process?
For years the European Union has been working to achieve a peaceful solution in the Middle East. As a member of the Middle East Quartet, it has become a key player during the last few years. The European Union is providing substantial financial support. Furthermore, due to its experience and competences, it is particularly engaged in working to develop Palestinian sovereignty.
The European Union supported from the outset the intensive efforts undertaken by the US to bring about the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The Council conclusions on the Middle East peace process of 16 December 2013 held out the prospect of an unprecedented package of measures for the parties should they reach an agreement. High Representative Federica Mogherini has declared that resolving the Middle East conflict will be a priority of her term of office. Since 15 April 2015, Fernando Gentilini has been the EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process.
Bilateral German Engagement
Germany is also working bilaterally to support a peaceful solution. The German Government has regular political talks with representatives of the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority. The Middle East is one of the regions most frequently visited by the Federal Foreign Minister and the Federal Chancellor.
As one of the largest bilateral donors, Germany contributes to building infrastructure, to improving education, to work programmes and to establishing a sustainable economy in Palestine.