German chancellor Angela Merkel is on a farewell trip to Israel before she leaves office. After a morning meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the German leader met with the Israeli cabinet. The trip caps Merkel’s sixteen years in power, which saw the chancellor deepen relations with the Jewish nation-state. With Merkel’s impending departure, Israel is bracing for a new chapter in the relationship.
Speaking at the start of her visit, Angela Merkel said she finds the progress Israel and Germany have made particularly moving.
It’s been 56 years since Germany and Israel formally established diplomatic relations. In the following decades, ties between the two countries have slowly become closer. But the psychological scars of the past still run deep.
March 2008 saw a landmark moment when Chancellor Angela Merkel became the first chancellor to address the Knesset – Israel’s parliament – in German.
Merkel’s final visit as chancellor this week will be her eighth – more than any of her predecessors.
For 12 of her 16 years as chancellor, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was her counterpart. But the smiles for the cameras often faded away behind closed doors.
Germany continues to insist on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the likelihood of that happening has shrunk dramatically. One major reason is the expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which Germany deems illegal under international law.
Still, Germany has stuck by Israel’s’ side. Most recently, during a violent flare-up in the conflict between Israel and Gaza earlier this year, which saw rockets fired by Hamas and Israel.
With Merkel’s impending departure as chancellor, comes a new chapter. But regardless who fills Merkel’s shoes, relations with Israel will remain as unique – and complicated – as ever.
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