Mr Minister, like Germany’s relations with France its relations with Israel have seen better times.Indeed, members of the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs have taken to referring to “the current Israeli Government” …
The relationship between Germany and Israel has developed on the basis of our historical responsibility and is built on a friendship between two democracies. For this reason, cooperation today is intensive and conducted in a spirit of trust, above and beyond party-political lines.
You constantly emphasize your good relationship with your counterpart Avigdor Liberman.But is he not the main reason why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not extended the moratorium on settlement construction?
The German Government’s position on settlement construction is unequivocal. We are convinced that a freeze on all settlement activity would be the right decision. Our good relationship with Israel has never stopped us saying this. We share this conviction with the United States and the European Union. In our opinion, anything that could jeopardize peace talks should be avoided.
Are you worried that the pressure Washington is putting on Israel will ease off following the congressional elections?
I don’t expect any change in foreign policy, since the elections in the United States were obviously a referendum on domestic and economic policy. Foreign policy – from disarmament to the political leadership shown by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton through their support for the Middle East peace process – does not seem to be affected. There are even indications from Washington that the talks could be about to pick up fresh momentum. The timing of my trip to the Middle East is in any case favourable. The US elections are behind us, the Arab League is to meet again soon – the aim now is thus to breathe life into direct talks.
You are one of the first European foreign ministers to visit the Gaza Strip since the war of 2007.What message do you want your visit to send?
It has several messages. Firstly a humanitarian one. I will visit a sewage treatment plant near Gaza City, which is being extended with German funds. And also a political one. I welcome the change in Israeli policy vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip. We attach the greatest importance to Israel’s security. But we also want to support moderate Palestinians, and have therefore – in line with the relevant decisions by the European Union and the United Nations – pushed for a lifting of the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israel now permits food to be imported, as well as building materials, subject to certain restrictions. Our aim now is for exports from the Gaza Strip to be permitted, too, because economic development there will be a step towards depriving the radicals of a breeding ground for their ideology.
Will it be possible, in the short or long term, to avoid talking to the Hamas Government?
No such talks are planned. It is our unequivocal position that terror is not to be tolerated. We condemn in the strongest possible terms all violence perpetrated by Palestinian extremists on Israeli citizens.
On another subject, the publication of the study into the Federal Foreign Office’s past has been reported around the world.Do you expect to be asked about it in Israel?
Definitely. The study on the Foreign Office’s history is also a study about Germany’s past. Of course people in Israel will talk to me about it.
The interview was published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 6 November 2010. The questions were posed by Majid Sattar. Copyright: All rights reserved. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung GmbH, Frankfurt. Made available by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Archiv (http://fazarchiv.faz.net/FAZ.ein).