0382bea01230a3064b0f6a7067009835A day before German chancellor Angela Merkel and nearly her entire Cabinet arrive in Israel, her foreign minister published an op-ed in an Israeli newspaper Sunday encouraging Israel to take the “difficult but necessary decisions” to allow U.S.-led peace efforts to succeed. Germany is Israel’s closest European ally and the two governments hold a joint Cabinet session each year. But Israel has seen tensions rise of late with Europe, and also Germany, over its West Bank settlement policies. In her weekly video message, Merkel made clear over the weekend that she would be pressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the peace talks. The European Union has been outspoken in its criticism of the settlements, saying Israeli construction of homes in occupied territories claimed by the Palestinians is undermining hopes for a negotiated peace settlement. Merkel’s government has echoed the sentiments. More