Saturday November 1, 2014
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31.10.2014
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Dan Margalit

Under Merkel, boycott floodgates stay closed

Israel's most conspicuous European ally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is set to arrive in Israel on Monday. While she left her heart in Kiev, she will be staying in Jerusalem. Merkel has kept up active contacts with Russian President Vladimir Putin, attempting to stave off a Russian invasion of Ukraine, or to prevent a rift from erupting, but so far she has held fast to her original plans and is on her way to Israel.

At its core, her visit is meant to bolster economic ties between Israel and Germany, not to feed the pollution of political disagreement. Still, political issues are going to be at the front and center of her meetings with various officials.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned he would try to recruit Merkel to support the Israeli position on the Iranian nuclear program. The German chancellor will most likely try to find common ground without have to acquiesce to Jerusalem's position in full, but having chosen that policy, Netanyahu needs to stick by it to affect the outcome of the ultimate compromise. Ramped up Israeli pressure could reduce the number of centrifuges that the U.S. is willing to forgive.

In the international relations lexicon, friendship does not always imply unanimous accord, and Merkel's Israeli hosts must take into account that beyond supporting two states for two peoples, the German chancellor would also like to see Jerusalem split into two capitals. She probably was not all that encouraged by an article published on Sunday by deputy ministers from the Likud renewing calls for settlement construction. Israel should value her friendship and assistance, even though she disagrees with Jerusalem over such issues.

Officials who do not love the German language or whose nerves are a bit skittish should stay away from her reception, and resist weighing on her arrival. The fiasco that erupted surrounding European Parliament President Martin Schulz's Knesset speech -- which ended with Habayit Hayehudi's Chairman Naftali Bennett's walk to Canossa -- was more than enough.

Logically, Merkel's arrival should come after a briefing by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry or other senior State Department officials. Kerry has been hard at work drawing up a working paper, which U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to present to Netanyahu during his trip to Washington next week. Talks with Merkel and other individuals this week are meant to improve certain elements of the draft proposal, which will end up determining the fate of negotiations with the Palestinians. Following that perspective, the need to prop up talks with the Palestinians is not the only reason for Merkel's trip, but it certainly constitutes a crucial part of it.

Israel is the target. So the Americans have emphasized certain issues that they find positive, such as the Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and persuading Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to an Israeli presence -- in whatever form and as extensive as possible -- in the Jordan Valley. That's why Kerry was interviewed by Dr. Ilana Dayan, and why the German ambassador spoke with Israeli television presenter David Witzthum -- preparation for the draft document. If both sides shake hands on it (albeit with certain reservations), Israel and the Palestinians stand to gain another year for peace talks.

Merkel is a welcome guest, especially given the fact that anti-Israel boycotts have become quite fashionable in certain circles in Europe. Her government -- unlike the Deutsche Bank -- is still closing the floodgates to the boycott movement, which even self-hating Israelis support.

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