Merkel rebukes Israeli PM Netanyahu for failing to advance peace
Israeli paper reports that PM was told in fractious phone call: 'You haven't made a single step'
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
guardian.co.uk, Friday 25 February 2011
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has sternly rebuked the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, in an unusually fractious telephone call, according to media reports.
Netanyahu had done nothing to advance the peace process, Merkel said in a conversation this week, reported in the Israeli daily Haaretz.
The Israeli prime minister telephoned Merkel on Monday to say he was disappointed that Germany had voted for a UN security council resolution condemning settlements that was vetoed by the US.
According to a German official quoted by Haaretz, Merkel was furious. "How dare you?" she said. "You are the one who has disappointed us. You haven't made a single step to advance peace."
A spokesman for the Israeli prime minister said he could not confirm the report.
The quoted comments reflect growing impatience in Europe with the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian talks and a belief that Israel is stalling or impeding progress. With the exception of the US last Friday's resolution was backed by all the security council members including Britain, Germany and France.
Despite the resolution being carefully worded to reflect American policy on settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the US wielded its veto for the first time under Barack Obama's presidency.
Reaction among Palestinians has been angry. Demonstrations have been held across the West Bank, in Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem.
Netanyahu told Merkel that he was planning a new initiative to be disclosed in the next few weeks. "I intend to make a new speech about the peace process in the next two to three weeks," he was quoted as saying.
An Israeli government official confirmed that a fresh statement by Netanyahu on negotiations was in preparation but declined to say when it might be delivered.
During a visit to Israel this month the German chancellor warned that "the stalemate in negotiation is dangerous. There is no room for excuses."
She dismissed the notion that Europe was becoming more hostile to Israel. "Europe will not turn its back on Israel and neither will the United States. We feel uncomfortable because things are not progressing. In an honest and straightforward manner I will tell you that you are missing an opportunity. History will not give you many more."
At a joint press conference on Thursday with the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, Netanyahu said he expected Poland to be robust in defending Israel when it took over the presidency of the European Union on 1 July.
"We have two expectations: upgrading Israel's standing in the EU and upgrading the truth," he said. "Israel is fighting for its right to exist, to live in security and exist at all, against ceaseless waves of attacks."
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