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Israel

Israeli and German leaders paper over cracks in relations

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have said bilateral relations remain good despite recent disagreements. Merkel added, however, they had agreed to disagree on key policies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his disappointment with Germany for having abstained from the UN vote last week upgrading the UN status of Palestine to "non-member observer state."

In a newspaper interview before the bilateral talks he said he had hoped Germany would oppose Palestinian recognition along with the Czech Republic and a handful of other countries including the United States.

Israeli PM visits Germany amid tension

“Even though I was disappointed about the German abstention, I don't hold it against Chancellor Merkel personally,” he said, stressing that he believed her commitment to Israel was genuine.

Netanyahu again described Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's move at the UN as a counter-productive, unilateral step.

Israel reacted to the UN vote by announcing that it would build more settlements in the disputed West Bank territory.

Germany was among the countries to swiftly voice disapproval over the plan in an area of East Jerusalem commonly called E1. It would see construction of 3,000 new homes for Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem, and could effectively divide the West Bank in two - fragmenting the Palestinian territories further.

After Thursday's talks, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she and Netanyahu had “agreed to disagree on the issue of the Israeli settlement policy.”

But she agreed that the Palestinian bid at the UN had been a unilateral move, and said that this was why her government had decided to abstain rather than support it.

She reiterated that Germany intended to continue its mediation efforts between Israel and the Palestinians with the view of securing peace in the region and progress towards a two-state solution.

Merkel has repeatedly said that good relations with Israel are a cornerstone of her foreign policy and that support of Israel was non-negotiable as Germany accepts the historical responsibility for the Holocaust.

rg/msh (dpa, Reuters)

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