JERUSALEM, Israel -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Israel Monday with a delegation of 16 government ministers, one of the largest in the history of the two nations' bilateral ties.
Prior to the delegation's arrival, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a German television station that Israeli "settlements" -- towns and cities outside the pre-1967 armistice lines -- are not an "obstacle to peace."
"The real issue is the willingness of the Palestinians to accept the Jewish state, a nation-state of the Jewish people," Netanyahu said. "We want real peace, not just to hand over land to be used to continue the battle against Israel."
Despite wide-ranging areas of mutual interest, Merkel, in her third term as Germany's chancellor, chose not to speak out against her government's labeling of products from Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.
Neither did she object to the European Union's decision to boycott funding of Israeli academic institutions beyond the "green line."
Nonetheless, she has often voiced her support of the Jewish state, as she did in her 2008 speech before the Knesset when she expressed Germany's unflinching support for Israel's security.
This week's meetings mark the fifth time the two governments have met and pave the way for next year's 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties, established 15 years after Germany's unconditional surrender to Allied powers following World War II.
According to a press release issued by Netanyahu's office, the governments will mark the anniversary by signing agreements on such diverse areas as security, foreign relations, economics and trade, justice, energy, environmental protection, agriculture, transportation, education (including technological education), science and research and development, culture and sports.
There will also be agreements on increasing mutual financing for cancer research, social welfare services, senior citizens' projects, and programs in developing countries.
At Sunday morning's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said Merkel and her "considerable entourage" come as friends, telling ministers that Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and the Iranian nuclear talks remain the "two diplomatic issues of the highest order."
"Regarding our negotiations with the Palestinians, I will make it clear that the infrastructure of peace between us and the Palestinians will be based on mutual recognition of two national states, that is, the necessity of Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state, then national state of the Jewish people."
With Germany as the sixth Western country in the P5+1, which also includes the five permanent U.N. Security Council members -- United States, Great Britain, France, Russia and China, Netanyahu will try again to present the facts as he sees them.
"Since Germany is part of the P5+1, I view with concern the fact that Iran believes it will realize its plan to be a nuclear threshold state, with an enrichment capacity it thinks cannot be touched, with the ability to develop both nuclear weapons and inter-continental missiles, which it is continuing to work on unhindered," Netanyahu said. "This combination of enrichment, weapons and launch capabilities, says that Iran is, in effect, receiving everything and giving almost nothing. This is the current situation."
"The permanent agreement cannot render this situation permanent," Netanyahu continued. "It must dismantle the Iranian ability to either produce or launch nuclear weapons, and this has yet to be achieved, and without the insistence of the major powers it will not be achieved. I hope that Germany and the other P5+1 countries will insist on the genuine demands to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state."