German president raps settlements on Israel visit


BERLIN (JTA) — Visiting German President Joachim Gauck told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to show readiness to make a compromise on settlement building.

Gauck made the remarks to Netanyahu on Wednesday during his official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The German official also criticized Israel’s settlement policy in discussions with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermann.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office applauded Gauck’s "strong reaffirmation of German-Jewish relations" but also urged him to affirm his commitment to protecting Israel’s security, in light of "an increasingly negative climate toward Israel" in Germany.

Recent polls have shown a decline in popular support for Israel among German citizens, noted Berlin AJC director Deidre Berger.

Gauck also was to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who have maintained that settlement expansion must stop if peace talks are to resume. Israel wants the talks to resume without any preconditions.

During his stay, Gauck also met with his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres, whom he thanked for the “immeasurable generosity of the gift of trust” that Israel has granted to the Federal Republic of Germany. 

The trip included a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and to a German-funded girls’ school in the West Bank village of Burin.

Reinhold Robbe, president of the German-Israel Society, who accompanied Gauck on the visit, said in a statement that the president had made his friendship with and support for Israel clear during the visit.

"It is not mere lip service," Robbe said, "but an important driving force for the president."

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