German Foreign Minister visits Israel, makes no threats regarding annexation

Mass is the first EU official to visit Jerusalem since the pandemic. He made no threats about repercussions for Israel’s expected annexation of settlements.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas arrived in Jerusalem Wednesday for talks with his Israeli counterpart. Despite harsh warnings from some European leaders of repercussions against Israel’s annexation plans, Maas limited his public comments to saying he came to learn more and did not set any “price tags.”

Mass is the first European official to visit Israel during the coronavirus pandemic and met with Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, a former IDF chief of staff but a rookie politician who has been on the job only two weeks.

The only other high-ranking diplomat to come to Jerusalem was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who last month met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ashkenazi described the talks as a “very good and productive meeting” in which they discussed regional issues as well Israel’s intention to apply Israeli sovereignty next month to settlements in Judea and Samaria.

Senior European leaders warned Israel such a move would have serious repercussions and Maas described annexation as a violation of international law.

However, the visiting German who is known for his positive comments about Israel said Germany wanted to learn more about the issue and was not making any threats.

“I have not set up any price tags,” Maas said at a press conference following the meeting, adding that the purpose of his visit was to “seek dialogue” on the issue.

With Netanyahu wanting to meet a July 1 target date to begin the annexation, European politicians claimed an Israeli unilateral move would finally put an end to any remaining hope for reaching a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians. However, with its history of close ties with Israel over the past 55-years, Germany may work to soften any EU reaction.

Before leaving for Israel Wednesday morning, Maas said the EU saw the annexation issue as important to the moribund peace process.

“Germany remains committed to the goal of a negotiated two-state solution. We will also talk about this and I will underline that we are ready to support all initiatives to revive talks between Israelis and Palestinians,” Maas said.  The German Foreign Ministry said Germany and its EU partners were “campaigning for a resumption of negotiations and for a two-state solution.”

Ashkenazi described the Trump peace plan as a significant regional opportunity, calling it an important milestone that Israel was not rushing into.

“The plan will be pursued responsibly, in full coordination with the United States, while maintaining Israel’s peace agreements and strategic interests. We intend to do it in a dialogue with our neighbors. Israel wants peace and security,” Ashkenazi said.

From Jerusalem Maas heads to neighboring Jordan, which he called “an important partner for Germany in regional issues such as the conflict in Syria, the fight against ISIS and, of course, also with regard to the Middle East peace process.”