Germany’s Foreign Minister to Visit Israel, Warn Against West Bank Annexation

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will visit Israel and Jordan next week and caution Israeli officials against the government's intent to annex West Bank lands. 

Maas will land in Israel on Wednesday and will meet with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and other Israeli officials. In the afternoon, he will meet with Palestinian officials over video conference, and in the evening will depart to Jordan.

Although the official purpose of the visit is for Maas to become acquainted with his new Israeli counterpart Ashkenazi, Maas will also be warning Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plans for annexation.

Germany, considered a key European ally of Israel, has strongly opposed annexation. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) meets with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (right) and French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian (left), Israel, March 26, 2018.Kobi Gedion / GPO

Last month, Germany and the Palestinian Authority issued a joint statement expressing "grave concern" over plans to annex occupied territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, stressing that such a move would be in violation of international law and would undermine a future two-state solution. Germany and the PA restated their commitment to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on United Nations resolutions and 1967 borders.

In his first speech as minister, Ashkenazi said he saw the plan as a "historic opportunity to shape the future of the State of Israel for decades to come." The former chief-of-staff and member of Benny Gantz's party also vowed to improve ties with Jordan, despite Amman's repeated statements that annexation would be unacceptable, and opinions by Israeli defense officials that annexation could kill the Israel-Jordan peace deal. 

Last week, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said in a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee that the international community must block any Israeli moves toward West Bank annexation and prevent such "unprecedented threat to peace."