Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
is brushing off international criticism over a planned new settlement project near Jerusalem, saying Israel
will keep the area under any future peace deal in any case.
Israel's plans to build 3,000 new settler homes in the corridor near Jerusalem triggered sharp criticism in Europe. Palestinians say that would make it impossible for them to establish a viable state in the West Bank.
After meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, Netanyahu said "most governments who have looked at these proposals over the years including the Palestinians themselves ... understand that these blocs ... are going to be part of Israel in a final political settlement of peace."
Netanyahu and Merkel on Thursday (Photo: AFP)
The German leader said at the news conference with Netanyahu in Berlin that the two leaders agreed to disagree on the question of the Israeli construction plans, the chancellor said on Thursday.
"We agreed that we disagree on this," Merkel said. "We in Germany believe the work on a two-state solution must be continued ... we must keep trying to come to negotiations and one-sided moves should be avoided," she added.
The two had dinner together on Wednesday evening and were hosting talks, along with most of their Cabinet ministers, Thursday morning.
The meeting of the two governments is an annual tradition and is generally amicable but comes at a time when both sides have expressed displeasure with one another's recent political moves.
'We haven't lost Europe'
The unusually tense build-up to Netanyahu's long-planned trip to Germany, one of Israel's closest allies in Europe, reflected the increasing displeasure in Europe at his government's seeming intransigence.
Six friendly European countries summoned the local Israeli ambassadors to file protests, and the US has condemned the latest settlement plans. On Wednesday, the Palestinians asked the UN Security Council to call on Israel to halt the planned construction.
In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt published on Wednesday, Netanyahu said that he "was disappointed, as were many people in Israel, by the German vote in the UN" on Palestinian statehood.
"I took note of this," Merkel said at the two leaders' joint news conference at which she stressed anew Germany's commitment to Israel's security.
"We did not take the vote, and our position, lightly," Merkel said. "We are against unilateral measures, so we didn't vote yes – that was very carefully considered. On the other hand, there is a certain amount of movement on the recognition of two states, which at many points in time we didn't have with the Palestinians."
Netanyahu stressed that despite the vote, Germany and other European countries have been among Israel's strongest allies and remain committed to helping ensure its security.
"I don't think that we lost Europe," he said of the vote.