Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) welcomes German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at his office in Jerusalem on Sunday. Photo by Ronen Zvulun/UPI | License Photo
May 8 (UPI) -- German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, visiting Israel, said a two-state solution is the only resolution to the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.
"There are no other solutions," he said at a meeting Sunday with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
In a speech at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Steinmeier added, "Only a two-state solution will give Israel a future as a Jewish democratic state."
The visit to Israel was Steinmeier's first as president of Germany. Earlier Sunday, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and in a joint press conference spoke of "weathering" a diplomatic storm. On April 25, Netanyahu abruptly canceled a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel after Gabriel refused to cancel a planned meeting with left-wing Israeli organizations Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem.
Breaking the Silence documents alleged abuses against Palestinians in the West Bank and B'Tselem, in dealing with human rights issues, strongly opposes the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
While Steinmeier did not mention the groups by name, he told the Hebrew University audience, "Democracy is able to take a critical look at itself, and to correct itself. Autocrats are not...For that reason, I believe that civil-society organizations that are part of the social debate deserve our respect as democrats, even when they take a critical view of a government, in Germany but also here in Israel."
There were reports Steinmeier might speak with the Breaking the Silence group while in Israel, but he said "I decided otherwise."
"Not because I find your prime minister's decision to cancel his meeting with Germany's foreign minister correct, but because I believe that it would not be in keeping with my responsibilities if I were to let relations between our two countries move deeper into a cul-de-sac, at the end of which all sides will have lost very much."
Last week, Netanyahu defended his decision not to meet with Gabriel, saying, "Foreign diplomats are welcome to meet with civil society activists and members of the opposition and anyone else they'd like, but my red line is that I will not meet diplomats who come to Israel and lend legitimacy to fringe radical groups that falsely accuse our soldiers of war crimes and undermine Israeli security."