Merkel nixes Germany-Israel summit over outpost legalization law: report

La chancelière allemande Angela Merkel (à droite) et le Premier ministre israélien Benjamin Netanyahu lors d'une conférence de presse à la Chancellerie à Berlin le 16 février 2016
AFP
Merkel herself has yet to comment publicly on the controversial Israeli legislation

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has scrapped plans for a joint summit with Israel that had been planned for later this year, reportedly in part due to her opposition to a controversial bill passed by the Israeli government last week which allows the expropriation of private Palestinian lands by retroactively legalizing West Bank settlement outposts.

While the official reason given to the Prime Minister's office for the event's cancellation was the German elections taking place in September, Israeli and German sources told the Israeli daily Ha'aretz that the so-called "Regularization Law" law caused such outrage in the Chancellor's office that a number of public and diplomatic steps were taken in opposition to the bill -- including scrapping the summit.

The event, an almost annual summit jointly chaired by Merkel and Netanyahu which alternates between Berlin and Jerusalem, was intended to highlight the strong ties between the two nations. It was scheduled to be held May 10 in Jerusalem.

Odd ANDERSEN (AFP)

The "Regularization Bill", which will retroactively legalize some 4,000 settler homes built illegally on privately owned Palestinian lands, sparked fierce condemnations from the international community.

After the law was passed, Germany's foreign ministry said its confidence in the Israeli government's commitment to the two-state solution was "severely shaken."

Germany also noted "odd expressions by individual members of the government, who openly call for the annexation of parts of the West Bank and prepare corresponding legislative drafts," concluding that "this is now a question of credibility."

Merkel herself has yet to comment publicly on the legislation.

Ha'aretz cited an unnamed Israeli source who had been in contact with Germany's foreign ministry as saying that Merkel's national security adviser, Kristof Heusgen informed Netanyahu's office, days after the controversial legislation passed, that the Chancellor had decided to postpone the summit and focus on preparing for the elections. The source said that Merkel's office had confirmed the dates of the event with Netanyahu's office just days earlier.

AHMAD GHARABLI (AFP/File)

The German ambassador to Israel did not respond to Ha'aretz's request for comment. The paper said that two other German officials did not, however, deny that dissatisfaction with the outpost law had an impact on the decision to cancel the event.

Israeli officials, including Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, said that there was no indication the summit had been canceled for any other reason than conflict with the September elections, Ha'aretz reported.

Opponents of the law both in Israel and the international community have condemned the bill, saying that it effectively legalizes the "theft" of more than 800 hectares of land that even Israeli law has accepted as Palestinian.

Its defenders argue the bill will allow settlers to live without fear of being driven from their homes -- many of which they have lived in for years.

The law is widely expected to be struck down by Israel's Supreme Court, with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit having already denounced it as "unconstitutional."

(Staff with agencies)

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