Friday, October 5, 2018

An opportunity to effect change - Eldad Beck

by Eldad Beck

A troubling trend has surfaced in Germany-Israel ties in which Germany sees fit to intervene in Israel's domestic affairs. Berlin must understand that it cannot impose its idea of how ‎Israel should be.

In March 2008, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ‎addressed the Knesset and unequivocally stated that ‎Israel's right to exist and its security are part of ‎Germany's supreme national interest. ‎

It was not the first time that the chancellor voiced ‎such a commitment, but saying so in the Israeli ‎parliament lent her declaration tremendous ‎resonance. Merkel was the first foreign prime ‎minister to address the Knesset – an honor usually ‎reserved only for heads of state – and she was the ‎first foreign dignitary to visit Israel to mark 60 ‎years since its inception.‎

Ten years have passed since then, and today the ‎question of what Merkel meant when she spoke of ‎Israel's right to exist as part of Germany's ‎national interest is more poignant than ever. ‎

Does Germany stand with Israel because of a sense of ‎historic obligation to preserve the memory of the ‎terrible crime committed by the Germans against the ‎Jewish people, and recognizes the right of the Jews ‎living in Israel to determine their own fate on the ‎basis of that terrible historical memory? ‎

Or is it that Germany is perhaps assuming the right ‎to decide for the Jewish people in the land of ‎Israel what its future will be?‎

It seems that a troubling trend has taken over the ‎German establishment's approach toward Israel, by ‎which Berlin sees Israel as something of a ‎problematic colony that refuses to accept the burden ‎of the central government in Berlin or Brussels.‎

This is not a new phenomenon; it actually dates back ‎to the days when Likud came to power in 1977, 12 ‎years after the establishment of ‎diplomatic relations between Israel and West Germany.‎

Germany got along with "pioneering" Israel much ‎better. The problems began when socialist, secular, ‎Israel gave way to a national, religious Israel, one ‎that is not a member of the Socialist International ‎and insisted on its rights without overly ‎considering what other nations had to say about it.‎

At first, official Germany refrained from voicing ‎its displeasure with Israel's conduct, but in recent ‎years, under Merkel, Germany has allowed itself to ‎cross line after line and intervene – in a rather ‎insolent manner – in Israel's internal affairs, ‎ostensibly out of concern for the future the Jewish ‎state.‎

Political organizations and private foundations ‎promote the interests of Israeli parties opposed to ‎the policies of the elected right-wing government ‎and actively oppose laws passed by the current ‎Israeli government; German government ministries ‎fund bodies that opposed Israel's existence as a ‎Jewish state and encourage boycotts against it; ‎German diplomats vote against Israel in various U.N. ‎bodies; and not one word about Germany's ‎mobilization to save UNRWA, the Palestinian ‎refugees' aid agency whose sole purpose is to ‎perpetuate Palestinian refugeedom despite the fact ‎it undermines Israel.‎

Seeking to preserve the unique relations between the ‎two countries, previous Israeli governments came to ‎terms with this situation. In hindsight, however, ‎this created a situation in which Germany is attuned ‎only with the "peace-seeking" Israeli Left, which ‎nostalgically adheres to the notion of "pioneering ‎Israel" and refuses to see the "new Israel." ‎

Merkel and the rest of her cabinet must understand ‎that the economic and technological miracle they so ‎admire in Israel has been made possible by the many ‎changes Israel has undergone in recent years.‎

As Merkel's fourth term as chancellor will most ‎likely be her last, the most significant ‎contribution she can currently make to the future ‎relations between Israel and Germany is to foster an ‎open dialogue into the many problems plaguing these ‎ties. ‎

But this should not be done in a patronizing way, ‎rather with openness and the understanding that this ‎is the only way in which to ensure solid, warm long-term relations between Germany and Israel. ‎

Most of all, however, it is time for Germany to ‎recognize Israel as it is, as it cannot impose on ‎Israel Germany's notion of what it thinks Israel ‎should be.‎

Eldad Beck


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