German Chancellor Olaf Scholz took issue with words used by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas following talks in Berlin on Tuesday.
In a joint press conference, Abbas described the way Palestinians are treated by the Israeli government as “apartheid,” prompting Scholz to immediately distance himself from the comments.
“Of course, regarding the Israeli politics we have a different assessment. I want to say clearly that I won’t use the word ‘apartheid’ and I don’t believe it is right to use the term to describe the situation,” Scholz said.
Although Germany has voiced support in the past for eventual Palestinian statehood under what is called the two-state solution, Scholz told reporters that it was “not the time to change the situation,” that is, for Berlin to formally recognize Palestine as an independent country.
Scholz also appeared to bristle as Abbas’ use of the word “Holocaust” to describe the killings of civilians, restrictions on the rights of Palestinians, and Israeli settlement in Palestinian land, the latter of which is considered a violation of international law by Germany and many other countries.
DW political correspondent Nina Haase said that “when President Abbas used the word ‘Holocaust’ for the actions of the Israeli government it looked as though Scholz wanted to respond, but he didn’t, and then the presser was over.”
“Normally a German leader would challenge such undiplomatic language. He didn’t look good here. But it’s also unclear whether Abbas did his cause any favors by knowingly provoking the German chancellor this way. It might have an effect on Scholz’ willingness to give full-throated support to Mahmoud Abbas in the future.”
Scholz later rejected Abbas’ Holocaust accusation in a comment to the German newspaper Bild. “For us Germans in particular, any relativization of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable,” he was quoted as saying. Comparing the situation in Israel to Germany’s treatment of Jews during the Holocaust is considered relativization.
Abbas also used the press conference to criticize US President Joe Biden and the United Nations what he saw as their lack of action towards Palestinian statehood despite claiming to support it.
es/dj (Reuters, dpa)