German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in Israel on Saturday for the start of a three-day trip just days after a row between Germany's foreign minister and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
At the start of his visit, Steinmeier met President Reuven Rivlin and the two toured Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda Shuk (Market), which had in recent years become a nightlife hub of entertainment, cafes, restaurants and bars; transforming each evening from the traditional market stalls and shops.
President Steinmeier requested that on his arrival to Israel this evening he would begin his visit with a tour of Jerusalem at night, during which he visited Machane Yehuda Market where Rivlin met and escorted him. The two met with leading figures and entrepreneurs from the market, and heard about the transformation the city, and the Shuk had undergone in recent years.
During the tour, the two Presidents tasted some Israeli craft beers, and toured the “Shuk Gallery” created by graffiti artist Solomon Souza. Souza who painted works in graffiti throughout the market on the store shutters, depicting famous Israeli and world figures.
Steinmeier's office said he would meet Netanyahu on Sunday. He is also scheduled to meet Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmud Abbas at his headquarters in Ramallah on Monday.
It is Steinmeier's first visit to Israel since taking up the post in March, although he has visited the region before while serving as foreign minister.
Netanyahu late last month cancelled a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, after the minister met members of the leftist organizations Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem a day after Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Gabriel told journalists in Jerusalem after the snub he regretted Netanyahu's decision, but also said he did not think it would badly impact relations between the two countries.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel subsequently backed Gabriel, saying she often meets civil society groups during her foreign travels and adding the dispute "changes nothing in our conviction that support for the state of Israel is part of our raison d'etat."
On Thursday, the Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported that Steinmeier will meet with Breaking the Silence members during his visit to Israel, but political sources said they believe that the German President will demonstrate required sensitivity and will ultimately not meet with them.