BERLIN, Feb. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC welcomed the successful conclusion of the fifth annual Germany-Israel bilateral consultations. A large German delegation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, including 16 Cabinet ministers, visited Israel for two days. They engaged in intense discussions on a wide range of issues with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Cabinet.
"The German-Israel relationship is dynamic and strong," said Deidre Berger, director of AJC Berlin.
Merkel and Netanyahu agreed on the threat posed by an Iran with nuclear weapons, and on the need to achieve through negotiations a sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Germany "supports a two-state solution – a Palestinian state and a Jewish state of Israel," said Merkel. "We also support Israel's security requirements to be able to finally live in secure borders."
President Shimon Peres, speaking at a dinner he hosted honoring Merkel praised her for "consistently supporting the peace process between us and the Palestinians."
Peres presented Merkel with the Presidential Medal of Distinction, the country's highest honor, noting that "You stand steadily by Israel's side to help us reach the greatest of heights."
The two governments signed a wide range of agreements, including in the areas of defense, foreign relations, development aid, trade, research and development, and culture. Notable was an agreement to allow German consulates to represent Israeli citizens in countries without Israeli diplomatic representation. German government officials also pledged to propose legislation soon to settle a long-standing dispute regarding pensions for Holocaust survivors who worked in ghettos.
The Chancellor's remarks opposing boycotts of Israel were welcomed by Israeli leaders.
"I hope that others in Europe follow your lead in rejecting boycotts," said Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. "Those who call for the boycott of Israel are not calling for the boycott of any other country."
At the same time, the Chancellor said that Germany, as an EU member state, is obligated to abide by the EU's planned guidelines for labeling Israeli products made in West Bank settlements. But this apparent disagreement on the EU labeling policy did not diminish the overall success of Merkel's visit.
Planning for next year's celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of German-Israeli diplomatic relations was discussed extensively. Marking this anniversary is also a high priority for AJC Berlin, which was established in 1998 as the first such office in Germany.
In January 2011, at a ceremony in Berlin, AJC presented Merkel with AJC's "Light unto the Nations Award" for her abiding friendship for the Jewish people and Israel. The Chancellor was also a keynote speaker at AJC's 100th anniversary dinner in Washington in 2006.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee