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December 7, 2012
Bibi and Merkel Despise Each Other - but Only if You Read the Times
The New York Times, along with most other Western media, has kept up a drumbeat of criticism of Israel's decision to build 3,000 more housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, along with planning and zoning work on an area known as E-1 that links East Jerusalem and the nearby Jewish town of Maale Adumim, population 40,000.
So it comes as no surprise that the Times would eagerly await a summit in Berlin between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Dec. 5-6. Germany disappointed Israel by abstaining from a U.N. vote to grant statehood recognition to "Palestine" -- instead of casting an outright "no" vote. Merkel long has differed with Israel on settlements, and the summit was widely anticipated as an event dominated by this issue.
In picking up the Times edition of Dec. 7, readers were treated to a headline that clearly gave such an impression ("Netanyahu, in Visit to Germany, Defends Settlement Plans" by Nicholas Kulish, page A14).
Merkel on the attack and Bibi on the defensive? So it might seem from Kulish's article, which focuses mainly on Netanyahu and settlements. Pouring it on, Kulish tells readers that "the usually warm relations between Israel and Germany have been especially strained in recent days." As for the E-1 area, he writes, "critics said future construction in E-1 could irreparably harm the chances for a viable, contiguous Palestinian state."
A contentious summit, n'est-ce pas? Actually, au contraire.
Except for settlements, where both leaders "agreed to disagree," it was a very harmonious summit. It's just that Kulish blanks out a profusion of very friendly and very positive declarations by Merkel about the Israeli-German relationship -- now and in the future. In fact, in spotlighting Bibi, Kulish totally neglects Merkel's determination to put settlements aside -- "this is a point that already has been discussed many times" -- and concentrate instead on a lengthy agenda of Israeli-German cooperation.
Here are some of her statements at the post-summit press conference that never made it into the Times:
The chancellor told reporters that they could refer to her website, "which points out once again how wide our cooperation is." She stressed that Germany is looking forward to the 50th anniversary of German-Israeli diplomatic relations to advance "greater cooperation in all areas -- from culture, the economy and even financial issues and much more."
Merkel also pointedly noted joint Israeli-German development projects to assist countries in Africa like Ethiopia and Kenya.
Referring to Israel's recent eight-day war with Hamas in Gaza, Merkel said it was important to recognize that "the starting point was Hamas" with its rocket attacks against Israel.
Summing up her views, the German chancellor said that "there is a wide, deep sense -- namely that our two countries work together amicably, intensely. Israel is the only democracy in the region with which we have a strategic partnership."
Not exactly a case of the chancellor taking Bibi to the woodshed, as the Times and other media sought to portray the summit.
Kulish's anti-Israel tilt also is evident in his treatment of the controversy over possible future construction in the E-1 area. He eagerly quotes unnamed "critics" as charging that this would "irreparably harm" chances of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state. Actually, this is pure bunk. Kulish overlooks the fact that Israeli officials and other "supporters" of E-1 development have pointed out that contiguity can and would be easily guaranteed with a bypass highway around Maale Adumim that would connect Ramallah and other Palestinian cities to the north with Bethlehem and Hebron in the south within a contiguous Palestinian state.
The Times is flogging Bibi and Israel with a canard. Development of E-1 has been supported by every Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin. And Bibi already has signaled that he would only go beyond zoning and planning in E-1 if Mahmoud Abbas, instead of joining in direct negotiations, continues with unilateral campaigns against Israel.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.
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