FM Levy Meets German FM Fischer

(Communicated by Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
June 5, 2000

Foreign Minister Levy met today (June 5) with his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer. The two discussed the bilateral relations between their countries, the Middle East peace process, the withdrawal from Lebanon, the negotiations with the Palestinians and the possibility of the renewal of talks with Syria.

With regard to the negotiations with the Palestinians on a permanent status agreement, Foreign Minister Levy stated:

"In view of Arafat’s recent statements, we must ask whether he is aware that the time has come for him to make crucial decisions as a political leader? To what extent is he able to demonstrate flexibility and compromise?

Prime Minister Barak wanted to make a gesture to the Palestinians, and he won support in the Government and in the Knesset for the decision to transfer villages near Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority. However, on that very same day, violent incidents occurred including the firing of shots by armed Palestinian policemen at Israeli soldiers. This violent outburst was like a slap in the face for those who believe in peace.

At this stage, the Palestinians are making an effort to show that they have benefitted from the use of force and inflammatory rhetoric. The message is not one of peace, but rather one of violent confrontation."

With regard to the possibility of resuming talks with Syria, Foreign Minister Levy stated:

"President Assad’s perception of peace is different from ours. He views peace as a situation of non-belligerence, and is not yet ready to embrace the concept of a comprehensive peace.

Israel is not at the top of Assad’s priorities. His top priority is to arrange for the promotion of the status of his son as his heir, followed by maintaining control of Lebanon and the economic issue. The last and fourth priority is the peace process with Israel.

Today, following our withdrawal from Lebanon, and after the resolution of Syrian domestic issues, it may be that there will be a positive development with the Syrians and that the peace process will gain momentum."

With regard to the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, Foreign Minister Levy stated:

"At this stage, the Government of Lebanon is playing "hide-and-seek", and we will view any violent action against Israel as an act of war which we will respond to very forcefully.

This is a propitious moment and a golden opportunity for Lebanon to bring about calm, sovereignty and rehabilitation. We hope that the Lebanese Government will choose the responsible path which will serve its own interests and not those of others."

The German Foreign Minister said that his government views the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon as a very courageous step, and that it regards the Lebanese Government as responsible for ensuring that there will be no fighting or violence. Fischer emphasized the readiness of Germany to become actively involved in the Middle East peace process.

Fischer added that he would raise the issue of the Iranian involvement in Lebanon and the matter of the thirteen Jews imprisoned in Iran with President Khatami who will arrive in Germany in July.

During their meeting, the two Ministers expressed their satisfaction with the dialogue and the fruitful cooperation between Israel and Germany in all spheres.

Minister Levy conveyed his appreciation for the support and efforts of Germany in general, and for the contribution of Joschka Fischer, in particular, for the advancement of Israel’s status in the EU, the acceleration of the signing of the Association Agreements, the support for Israel’s membership in the West European and Others Group (WEOG) of the UN, and for the efforts made to assist the Jews imprisoned in Iran.