On the last day of his trip to the Middle East, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel spoke with Israelis and Palestinians, campaigning for a two-state solution as the only exit from the Middle East conflict. For this purpose, he held talks with, among others, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Although Sigmar Gabriel has visited Israel countless times, this was his first official visit as Foreign Minister. He arrived in Israel on Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Rembrance Day. On this special day, his itinerary included only one official stop: a visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. On arriving in Jerusalem, he gave the following statement:
Here in Israel today, I bow my head in silence before the unfathomable depths, the almost inconceivable betrayal of all civilised values that was the Shoah, and before the country that has, despite this, extended its hand to us Germans.
A two-state solution is in the interest of both sides
On the second day of his visit, Foreign Minister Gabriel held talks with representatives of both sides. These discussions centred on the conflict in the Middle East. After meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in the West Bank, he re-emphasised that, in the long term, there is no alternative to the two-state solution. This is, he stressed, not only in the interest of the Palestinians, but will help to ensure the security of the State of Israel..
Make good use of the time that is available
He went on to insist that the Palestinian side should make good use of the time it has right now, before further progress can be made on the Middle East conflict. Gabriel saw a particularly pressing need for Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to reconcile their differences. Other priorities are the holding of elections and improving living conditions for people in the Gaza Strip, to prevent further radicalisation.
The day also brought a surprising change of plans: A meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who also holds the office of Israeli Foreign Minister, was cancelled on short notice. This apparently occurred in connection with a planned meeting of Gabriel with organisations that have expressed criticism of the government. Although the German Foreign Minister regrets this decision, he does not consider it to be “a catastrophe”. Gabriel is sure that “this will not change a thing with regard to German-Israeli relations”. He has often met with Netanyahu, and now he will wait until a new opportunity for a meeting arises.
Toward the end of his visit, Foreign Minister Gabriel was received by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, with whom he held a long and warm discussion. He landed back in Berlin in the early hours of Wednesday morning.