JERUSALEM (AP) — Germany's president said Sunday that despite recent disagreement the foundation of his country's relations with Israel remains solid — a reference to a recent diplomatic spat over an Israeli anti-occupation group.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier is in Israel on his first foreign trip outside Europe since he was elected president earlier this year. It comes two weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled talks with the German foreign minister because the visitor chose to meet Breaking the Silence, a group of former Israeli combat soldiers-turned-whistleblowers who oppose Israel's rule over the Palestinians.
The dispute has cast a shadow over what would otherwise have been a routine visit to Israel by the German president.
Netanyahu said after meeting with Steinmeier that Israel has a "unique partnership" with Germany. In an apparent dig at Breaking the Silence, Netanyahu said Israeli troops have "moral standards second to none."
Steinmeier addressed the dispute after meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
"In the last weeks, we have experienced turbulent winds, but the basis upon which our relations are founded is solid, and can withstand all challenges," Steinmeier said.
Israel and Germany have had a long, close and complicated relationship. Israel was established in 1948 on the ashes of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were systematically killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II.
The countries only established diplomatic relations in 1965.
Today, Germany is a key Israeli trade partner and ally in Europe, and assumes responsibility for the crimes committed during the Holocaust.
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