Critics Want Tougher Berlin Stance Against Israel

Critics Want Tougher Berlin Stance Against IsraelCritics Want Tougher Berlin Stance Against Israel

Relations between Germany and Israel are at a crossroads. Is it possible for the German government to continue to steadfastly support the country even as Israel continues to refuse to allow the Palestinians to establish their own state? Spiegel wrote in a report.

Rudolf Dressler, 74, expresses his deep concern over the Israel-Palestine conflict. He served as the German ambassador in Israel 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.” 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.

German politicians are facing a moral dilemma: How should they deal with a country that is constantly pursuing a regime of occupation and whose treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories occasionally resembles apartheid? Germany is one of Israel’s most important arms suppliers. In recent years, the Germans exported highly advanced submarines to the Israelis that can be armed with nuclear warheads.

In Berlin a debate is unfolding over whether the old rules still apply in dealing with Israel. “If statements by Netanyahu cause the two-state solution to lose every shred of credibility, it will naturally 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.

Other German politicians have similar opinions. “If the occupation status becomes permanent, we have to ask ourselves what this means in terms of our policy toward Israel,” says the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German parliament, Ruprecht Polenz. 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.

 Old Rule

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. At the same time, the personal relationship between Merkel and Netanyahu is the worst that has ever existed between an Israeli prime minister and a German head of government. On the phone and in public, the disappointed German chancellor criticizes the Israeli prime minister for his settlements policy and his lack of effort in brokering a peace deal with Palestinians -- but to no avail.

Israel appears to be doing its best to make life difficult for Palestinians in the West Bank so as many of them as possible will leave the country. German aid organizations have also felt the brunt of this policy.

  One-State Reality

Nearly all Palestinian construction projects are turned down in what is known as Area C, which is the 62 percent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control. In recent years, Israeli settlements here have been consistently expanded, making a two-state solution ever more unlikely. This is commonly referred to as the “one-state reality.” Meanwhile, Berlin is continuing to pursue the goal of a Palestinian state. “There is no alternative to the two-state solution,” say high-ranking German officials, who point out that it is still possible to make a connection between the northern and southern West Bank, and that the decisive E1 area has not yet been settled. “With the settlement of E1, Israel would cross a red line,” say officials in Berlin.

“There are two countries in the world that can effectively exert pressure on Israel: the US and Germany,” says Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. “I would welcome it if Germany would use its key role, for example, by making further arms deliveries contingent upon progress in the peace process.”

  Crack in Relations

There are initial signs that Berlin is slowly distancing itself from its traditional unconditional support of Israel. The first clear crack in its policy appeared in November 2012, when the UN General Assembly voted on granting the state of Palestine a non-member observer status. Germany abstained.

The German government has a number of means of exerting pressure on Israel. Many European countries are opting for unilateral recognition of Palestine. Last year, Sweden became the first EU member country to take this step, and the majority of the members of the parliaments in France, Portugal, the UK, Ireland and Spain have come out in support of recognizing the country.

Nevertheless, proposals to introduce EU sanctions against products from the territories illegally occupied by Israel have come to nothing, primarily due to German resistance. “The biggest foot-draggers are in Berlin,” says an EU diplomat.

How does one say to a friend that he is making a mistake without jeopardizing the friendship? Germany has neither the will nor the ability to question the solidarity that it owes Israel. At the same time, however, it cannot accept that Israel continues to disregard human rights and democratic principles.

Germany is searching for a way out of this dilemma and, no matter what path it takes, it is essential that it always acts in the interests of the security of Israel. Then the pressure is justified, whether it is exerted via the UN, the EU or arms exports.