December 8, 2010 | The Jerusalem Post

Wikileaks: Merkel Adviser Asked US to Pressure Netanyahu

A senior adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the US to tone down its opposition to the UN’s Goldstone Report in order to force Israel to freeze settlement construction, according to a cable from the US Embassy in Berlin published by WikiLeaks on Wednesday.

The embassy said in the November 2009 cable: “[National Security Adviser Christoph] Heusgen said that Germany ‘perceives this differently’ and thought Netanyahu needed ‘to do more’ in order bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table. With Palestinians in East Jerusalem getting notices from Israeli authorities that their houses will be destroyed, it would be ‘suicide’ for President Abbas to move under the current circumstances.

“Heusgen said he could not fathom why Netanyahu did not understand this. He suggested pressuring Netanyahu by linking favorable UNSC [Security Council] treatment of the Goldstone Report to Israel committing to a complete stop in settlement activity.”

Heusgen, Merkel’s point man on the Middle East, conveyed his remarks in a November 10 meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon and with US Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy.

According to the cable, “Gordon said that making a direct linkage between the two would almost certainly be counterproductive, but agreed that it was worth pointing out to the Israelis that their policy on settlements was making it difficult for their friends to hold the line in the UNSC. Heusgen said this certainly would be an issue when Netanyahu and ‘half of his cabinet’ visit Berlin on November 30 for bilateral government consultations.”

The WikiLeaks disclosure is said by some in Germany to reveal profound cracks in the “special relationship” between Israel and Germany.

The Goldstone Report charged Israel with committing war crimes during its December 2008-January 2009 offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Rita Zorluol, a spokeswoman for Heusgen, said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the US dispatches were acquired “in an illegal way” and were not meant for the public. She said Germany has a “close partnership” with Israel and that Heusgen will not comment on the WikiLeaks dispatches.

When asked if Heusgen’s policy recommendations undercut German-Israeli relations, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Berlin wrote the Post by e-mail on Thursday, “The German government does not, as a basic principle, comment on the dispatches, contents and speculations of confidential communications involving foreign states. The close partnership to Israel is, and remains, a constant of Germany’s foreign policy. The position of the German government to the question of settlements is well known and remains unchanged.”

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy declined to comment on Heusgen’s recommendation to the chancellor.

A spokeswoman for Merkel’s administration reiterated the Foreign Ministry statement in an e-mail to the Post.

It is unclear if Merkel asked Heusgen to pressure Israel with the help of the US in an effort to get a settlement freeze.

Heusgen has previously angered Israel and has frosty relations with his Israeli counterpart, Uzi Arad. A joint Israeli-German cabinet meeting last year was almost canceled because of Heusgen’s insistence that settlement talks be a core element of the discussions.

Dr. Tilman Tarach, a German expert on Israel- German relations, told the Post on Thursday, “The position of the German government does not surprise me, as it has always been clandestinely anti-Israel. As for the settlements, some 20 percent of Israeli citizens are Arab. So why shouldn’t 20% of Jews live on the territory of a future Palestinian state? The criticism of the settlement policies assumes that a future Palestinian state has to be “judenrein.”

Tarach, an attorney and author of the book The Eternal Scapegoat: Holy War, ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and the Dishonesty of the So- Called Left in the Middle East Conflict, added that “the Palestinian side in recent years had never made a cessation of settlement a condition of negotiations. Where the demands of Obama and the German government go beyond those of the Palestinians, they make it harder for the Palestinians to be prepared for negotiations. Israel has often shown that in the process of negotiations, settlements can be evacuated.”

Read in The Jerusalem Post