The unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is one of the key fields of conflict in the Middle East. At the root 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; the Palestinians, for their part, 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 parties to the conflict have not held direct negotiations since 2014. These are the key issues at stake:
- The borders that would be established between Israel and a future Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution
- The future status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital
- The question of refugees
- The Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories
- Agreements on security
- Agreements concerning the management of water resources
The German and European positions
Germany’s history entails a special responsibility towards Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and for Israel’s security. At the same time, Germany recognises the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and their endeavours to gain their own state. Germany and its partners firmly believe that the goal of 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 that is acceptable to both sides can result in a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Outline of a negotiated two-state solution
Germany’s Middle East policy is anchored in European policy on the region. The European Union, along with Russia, the United States and the United Nations, is part of the Middle East Quartet (see Info box below), which in 2003 presented a roadmap with parameters for negotiations on the disputed issues. The European Union is guided by this roadmap in its Council conclusions.
- A solution should be found for Jerusalem, as the future capital city of two states, which does justice to both sides’ claims.
- The refugee issue requires a fair, equitable, mutually agreed and realistic solution.
- Security arrangements should respect Palestinian sovereignty and demonstrate to the Palestinians that the occupation is over. At the same time, they should guarantee the security of Israel, prevent terrorism and enable an effective response to security threats.
- An agreement on the future borders should be based on the borders of 4 June 1967, although the parties to the conflict may agree to exchange territory of equal value. The European Union will only recognise changes to the borders of 4 June 1967 that have been agreed by the parties to the conflict.
Avoiding erosion of the peace process
It remains the German Government’s aim to preserve the foundations of the two-state solution and prevent further erosion of the peace process, in order to enable a new round of negotiations in due course. Germany is working within the Munich format, together with Egypt, France and Jordan, to present both parties to the conflict with concrete proposals for confidence-building measures and to see a political dialogue resume.
Israel’s normalisation agreements with the Arab world
In a deal brokered by the United States and concluded in September 2020, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain became the first Arab countries to normalise relations with Israel since its peace agreements with Egypt in 1982 and Jordan in 1994. The Sudan and Morocco announced similar measures shortly afterwards. Germany welcomes this step as an important contribution to peace and stability in the region. These developments must now be translated into fresh momentum for the stalled Middle East peace process.
Germany’s bilateral engagement
Germany also works bilaterally to support a two-state solution. The German Government regularly holds 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 Palestine’s largest bilateral donors, Germany contributes to building infrastructure, to improving education, to work programmes and to establishing a sustainable economy.