Friday, May 8, 2015

Germany: Politicians want a much tougher Berlin stance against Israel

Spiegel has published an Israel-bashing article in which it lists German unconditional friends of Israel among the political establishment.  It comes up with the grand figure of two: Rudolf Dressler and Elmar Brok.  And of course Angela Merkel.  According to the newspaper they are increasingly disgusted with Israel. Under the guise of impartial journalism, the article trots out the usual arguments against Israel.  Israel is so beyond the pale that it is referred  as a "dilemma" for the Germans - but not their very cosy relationship with Arab governments who tread on the human rights of their people (public hangings, beheadings, stoning, mutilations, amputation, emprisonment, torture, etc).  In 2008, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Israel, Henryk Broder stressed in the Spiegel that "on Sept. 23, 1948, just four months after the founding of Israel", the German journalist and intellectual Marion Dönhoff  [1] was already nazifying the Israel government/people and making them into a pariah State: "How far they have already come along that path which recently led another people to doom", she wrote.

Broder concludes: "Significant parts of the German intelligentsia see it as their task to watch day and night to make sure that the Jews (in other words, Israelis) do not backslide and do not gamble away the moral credit that they gained by being the victim of the Nazis. But Israel's original sin isn't its poor treatment of the Palestinians but rather the fact that it makes it so hard for those nice Germans to like the Jews."  In short, old wine  in new bottles.

Der Spiegel reports:
The man who changed relations between Germany and Israel pauses to reflect as he sits in his living room in the western German town of Königswinter. "The situation is pretty hopeless," he says. The comment sounds both disappointed and disenchanted. His hair has receded and the wrinkles on his face are more pronounced, but he remains as sharp as ever. Rudolf Dressler, 74, is describing the current situation in Israel and expressing his deep concern.

He served as the German ambassador in Jerusalem for five years. In 2005, as Dressler's term in Israel was already drawing to a close, he wrote an essay that included a sentence in which he expressed Germany's unconditional solidarity with Israel more radically than anyone before him: "The secured existence of Israel lies in Germany's national interest and is thus part of our reason of state." It was this turn of phrase, coined by Dressler, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel incorporated into her speech before the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, three years later.

Today, Dressler has become a sharp critic of current Israeli policies. He calls the development in Israel "dramatic." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just won the elections based on a platform in which he clearly opposes the creation of a Palestinian state. Dressler is urging German politicians to make sure that this results in consequences. Germany has already waited too long, he says. [...]

In Berlin a debate is unfolding over whether the old rules still apply in dealing with Israel, only this time it is not being led by right-wing firebrands or errant left-wingers, who have always viewed Israel as a satellite of American imperialism. Instead, these issues are being raised by outspoken friends of Israel. "If statements by Netanyahu cause the two-state solution to lose every shred of credibility, it will be difficult to find Palestinian negotiating partners who are willing to reach a peaceful solution," warns Elmar Brok, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the European Parliament in Brussels -- and a member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Removing the prospect of a two-state solution is "irresponsible -- even from an Israeli perspective," he says.

Other German politicians have similar opinions. [...]

The Foreign Ministry in Berlin has a similar view. Officials there take statements made by Netanyahu during the election campaign "very seriously," despite the fact that he revised them after the election. Still, what does this mean for German policies? For years now, Berlin has addressed Israel with a "clear, unmistakable language," just as Dressler is urging, and openly criticized the ongoing construction of settlements -- yet without any success. To achieve something would require a more pronounced distancing combined with pressure, deadlines and ultimatums. "We could limit trade with Israel, but also curb support in the form of arms deliveries, without affecting Israeli security," argues Dressler.

Still, this is precisely what puts Merkel in a dilemma: On the one hand, she is losing patience with a stubborn prime minister and Israeli policies that, Berlin is convinced, pose a risk to the actual security interests of the Jewish state. On the other hand, Merkel doesn't want to call into question the old rule: When in doubt, favor Israel. Every German chancellor has adhered to this unwritten policy -- and Merkel, who hails from eastern Germany, has done so to a slightly greater degree than her predecessors. For Merkel, who didn't fully come to terms with Germany's guilt toward the Jews until she was an adult and didn't get to know the state of Israel until she was a politician, Israel is not a mental concept but rather a matter of the heart, according to someone who has known her for a long time. Indeed, the deep rift with Israeli policy is "a very emotional issue for her." More.
[1] She was not the run-of-the-mill journalist: Marion Hedda Ilse Gräfin von Dönhoff (2 December 1909 – 11 March 2002) was a German journalist who participated in the resistance against Hitler's National Socialists with Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, Peter Yorck von Wartenburg and Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. After the war, she became one of the leading German journalists and intellectuals. She worked over 55 years for the Hamburg-based, weekly newspaper Die Zeit, as an editor and later publisher. More.

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