Sunday, 25 Feb 2018 - 10 of Adar, 5778

Former President of European Parliament Martin Schulz to become new Foreign Minister in Merkel’s coalition government, once caused a controversy with his Knesset speech

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BERLIN—The former president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, is likely to become  the new Foreign Minister in the coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel as Germany’s leading parties, the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD)  agreed on Wednesday a deal for a new government.

The signing of a deal sets the stage for a fourth term for Merkel but gives SPD  control over the finance and foreign ministries.

Germany has been without a new government since last September’s general election, which left Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance in first place but needing to form a coalition to get a governing majority.

Merkel first tried to form a government with the liberal Free Democrats and the Greens but the talks collapsed.

The SPD, Merkel’s junior partner in the last government, declared after the election that it would not form a new “grand coalition” with the conservatives. But Schulz changed his stance after the failure of Merkel’s talks with the liberals and the Greens.

Schulz, the leader of SPD, served as the president of the European Parliament from 2012 to 2017 before entering German politics.

If he becomes Foreign Minister, like the German press reports, he will replace Sigmar Gabriel, who is from the same party.

“As a friend and close ally, we need to know if Israel is not supporting a negotiated solution to this conflict anymore,”

During a visit to Israel last week, Gabriel declared that in Europe “there is clearly a growing frustration with Israel’s actions” and asked Israelis ”if they are prepared to pay the price of perpetual occupation.” He said it is increasingly difficult “for people like me” to explain to young people in Germany and within his own SPD Party “the reasons why our support for Israel must persist.”

In April last year, Netanyahu refused to meet with Gabriel when the latter triggered a diplomatic incident by insisting to meet representatives of Breaking the Silence during his visit.

Gabriel raised more eyebrows last month at a meeting to combat anti-Semitism in Berlin with Muslim migrants. When the issue of criticism of Israel came up, he said that a visit he made to Hebron in 2012 reminded him of “what was seen during apartheid.”

But Gabriel’s would-be successor as Foreign Minister also caused a stir when he accused Israel of depriving Palestinians of water in a speech he made in the Knesset as  president of the European parliament in  2014.

“A Palestinian youth asked me why an Israeli can use 70 cubic liters of water and a Palestinian just 17. I haven’t checked the data. I’m asking you if this is correct,” Schulz told the Knesset.

His speech  triggeredg a walkout by several members of the Israeli parliament and led Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accuse Schulz of ‘’selective hearing.’’


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