Thursday, April 5, 2018

Easing German-Israeli Tensions - Joseph Puder

by Joseph Puder

New German foreign minister vows to fight anti-Semitism.

Angela Merkel’s Germany has a new coalition government and a new Social Democrat Party (SPD) Foreign Minister, 51-year old Heiko Maas, who replaced his controversial predecessor, Ingmar Gabriel.   Last week was Maas’ first official trip to Israel, which began at Yad V’shem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.  In the visitors book Maas wrote “Germany bears the responsibility for the most barbarous crime in the history of humanity.”  He also vowed that Germany would continue to fight against anti-Semitism and racism “everywhere and every day.” On this, his preliminary foreign trip, Maas arrived in Jerusalem following visits to Paris, Warsaw, and Rome.  On his two day trip he was visiting Ramallah for talks with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and he met with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

In recent months, the relationship between Germany and Israel has been pretty frosty, and the new foreign minister seeks to change that.  In his inaugural speech in Berlin, Maas announced that he would travel to Israel to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary of independence, and pointed out that, “Personally, the German-Israeli history is not just one of historical responsibility, but it also represents a deep motivation in my political decision-making.”  He added, “I didn’t go into politics out of respect for Willy Brandt or the peace movement, I went into politics because of Auschwitz.” 

Maas’ statement about his motivation to enter politics is certainly commendable, considering that 42-years ago (1976), an Air France airplane from Israel bound for Paris was diverted it to Entebbe by German hijackers.  Once there, the Germans initiated a Nazi-like selection, which separated Jews and Israelis from the rest of the passengers.  German soil saw the murder of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics.  Earlier in the 1960’s, German scientists helped Egypt’s Dictator Abdul Nasser develop missiles aimed to destroy the Jewish state.  Given (Nazi) Germany’s murder of Six-Million European Jews, Germany’s moral responsibility to the Holocaust survivors in the Jewish state was not upheld.  Blood money was indeed paid by the West German government, but at the same time, its scientists sought to finish Hitler’s work against the Jewish state.

Last year Chancellor Angela Merkel cancelled the annual summit between German and Israeli parliamentarians.  Although her excuse was the need to prepare for the upcoming federal elections, the real reason was apparently Merkel’s government’s unhappiness with alleged Israeli settlement expansion.  Her government is committed to the two-state solution. It was followed by Israel’s PM Netanyahu cancelling a meeting with former FM Ingmar Gabriel.  The latter alienated the Israeli public by deliberately meeting with anti-Israel NGO’s prior to his scheduled meeting with Netanyahu. 

German politicians wedded to the two-state solution fail to grasp the realities on the ground, that a Palestinian state at this time would be a prescription for instability and terror. It is unlikely that such a state would demilitarize, or accept the idea of living in peace side by side with Israel.  The Palestinian educational system, its media, and mosques have honed an entire generation on hatred of Israel and Jews.  Moreover, Mahmoud Abbas has refused to engage in negotiations with Israel. He has also ruled out the U.S. peace plan and American mediation.  However, the Two-State issue isn’t the only spat between Germany and Israel.

Last year the European Union’s (EU) ruling that Israeli products coming from Judea and Samaria must be labeled, infuriating Jerusalem.  It was akin to marking a Nazi-like Yellow Star of David on Israeli products.  Germany, moreover, rejected U.S. President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the moving of the U.S. embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.  Germany, along with the EU, seeks to settle the status of the Holy City in the context of a multilateral peace agreement.  In that context, they would deny Israel the right of selecting where its capital should be. 

Another issue of contention between Berlin and Jerusalem is the candidacy for one of the 10 non-permanent seats at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).  Germany’s candidacy pits it directly against Israel.  In its 69 years as a member of the UN, Israel has never been elected to serve among the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council.  Germany had already been elected in the 2011/2012 session to serve its 2-year term in the Security Council.  Both Israel and Germany (along with Belgium) are competing within the West European and Others Group (WEOG) for the 2019/2020 session.  The outcome of the June runoff between Germany and Israel would test Germany’s moral commitment to the Jewish state.

A more existential issue for Israel is Germany’s support for the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  Germany is the plus one state.  PM Netanyahu has made his views clear on the nuclear deal: “fix it or nix it.”  U.S. President Donald Trump has to decide by mid-May whether to go along with the deal as the EU powers wish, or go with his instincts and follow his campaign promises to tear down the current deal with Iran, and re-impose sanctions.  President Trump wants penalize Iran for developing long-range ballistic missiles that might eventually be used to target America.  Trump seeks the expansion of access by international nuclear inspectors to include military facilities.  Another point of disagreement between Germany and the EU on one hand, and the Trump administration along with the Israeli government on the other, is the prolongation of the limits of Iran’s nuclear activity, which is scheduled to expire in a few years.  This would give Iran legitimacy to develop nuclear weapons as well as the long range missiles they are already developing that could easily reach Israel.  Lest the Germans forgot, Iran’s theocratic regime has vowed to “Wipe Israel off the map.”

Finally, there is the issue of growing anti-Semitism in Germany, an issue FM Heiko Maas pledged to fight “everywhere and every day.”  It was however predictable that the influx into Germany of over a million Middle Eastern Muslims, immersed in anti-Jewish hatred within their schools, media, and mosques, would raise the level of anti-Semitism to new heights.  In an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, Rabbi Meyer May, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, addressed the increased hatred of Jews in Germany, which was triggered by “the influx of Muslim refugees.” He described the influx as “a cancer.” There is a natural irony in Chancellor Merkel’s decision to invite over a million Middle Eastern Muslims to Germany.  Her homeland murdered its Jews during WWII, and is now replacing them with Jew-hating Muslim Afghans, Iranians, Syrians and Turks.  Jews in Germany are worried about the increase in overt anti-Semitism of late, detected in German society.

Highlighting the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany was the case last week of a Jewish girl in Berlin being mobbed by a group of Muslim students for “not believing in Allah.” The girl’s father contended that the Muslim mob had threatened to kill her.  Reacting to that, FM Maas told the German tabloid Bild, that, “When a child is threatened with anti-Semitism, it is shameful and unbearable.  We must stand firm against all forms of anti-Semitism.” He added, “Everything must be done worldwide to protect Jewish life.”

Unfortunately German policymakers would rather make deals with radical Islamist regimes like Iran than oppose them.  The issues of contention between Germany and Israel will remain as long as Germany aids and abets Israel’s mortal enemies.

Joseph Puder


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