Germany dismisses Netanyahu Holocaust comments
Israeli Prime Minister and his German counterpart Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint press conference in Berlin, October 21, 2015. (AFP/File)
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claims that a Palestinian religious leader gave Hitler the idea for the Holocaust overshadowed his meeting Wednesday in Berlin with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert dismissed the Israeli leader's remarks, saying it was "the murderous race madness of the Nazis that led to the break with civilization that was the Holocaust."
Netanyahu's comments claiming that the controversial Palestinian Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini had encouraged Hitler to embark on the Holocaust has already set off a storm of criticism in the Middle East.
"We know about the innate German responsibility for these crimes against humanity," said Seibert. "I don't see any reason that we should in any way change our view of history."
In a news conference following the Merkel meeting, Netanyahu said that while Hitler bore ultimate responsibility for the Holocaust, the mufti was nevertheless an accomplice who had collaborated with the Nazis.
Merkel and Netanyahu held talks on the current security situation facing Israel as well as tensions in the Middle East ahead of a meeting Thursday in Berlin between the Israeli leader and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry will meet separately with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, before heading Friday to Vienna for talks with the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Netanyahu's visit to Germany comes against the backdrop of a series of deadly attacks on Israelis carried out by Palestinians.
The Israeli leader is visiting Berlin at a crucial time for Merkel as her government attempts to find a way to end the conflict in Syria and ease Middle East tensions, as a way to stem the tide of refugees from the war-torn region into Germany. Israel borders Syria.
Steinmeier has been on a trip through the Middle East to press Berlin's case for efforts to end Syria's devastating civil war.
Both Berlin and Israel see Germany as Israel's key ally in Europe.
But relations between the two governments have been strained in recent years by German criticism of Netanyahu's policy of expanding Jewish settlements into Palestinian areas.
Merkel has failed in previous meetings with Netanyahu to convince the Israeli leader to end his government's settlements programme.
Netanyahu is strongly opposed to the newly adopted nuclear deal with Iran, which Germany helped to forge as part of a group of six world powers.
Merkel believes that a peace settlement in the Middle East needs to be based on a two-state solution with a Palestinian state that exists in peace alongside Israel.
Netanyahu renewed his commitment to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after regaining power in the March election.
However, the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis has ground to a halt.
German officials are not expecting any movement toward reactivating talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, with the recent escalation of violence making the peace process even more difficult.
Netanyahu had been due to visit Berlin earlier this month as part of the regular joint meetings of the German and Israeli cabinets.
But the trip was called off due to the "security situation" in Israel, officials said.
Joint meetings between the Israeli and German cabinets have been held since 2008, the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel's founding.
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