German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s third consecutive electoral victory has
profound consequences for Israel’s support in Europe and its security
cooperation with the Federal Republic.
To understand German- Israeli
relations under Merkel, it helps to compare her positions with those of her
adversaries. Merkel’s party – the Christian Democratic Union (along with its
sister party the Christian Social Union) – is the only German party to strictly
oppose the new EU settlement guidelines. Her party’s statements on the
guidelines, which bar EU cooperation with Israeli entities beyond the Green
line, declare that the guidelines are not “objective requirements” and urge the
EU to modify its regulations.
Merkel’s principal opponent, the Social
Democrats, issued a statement to the main German-Jewish newspaper Jüdische
Allgemeine, declaring the party’s support for the EU sanctions targeting
Israel’s work in the disputed territories.
The radical Left Party and the
Green Party strongly favor the EU sanctions imposed on the Jewish
Merkel’s coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP),
wrote that there “are no EU sanctions against Israel” and the FDP rejects
sanctions against the “only functioning democracy in the Middle
The FDP did not explicitly declare the EU guidelines to be
non-objective and simply called on Israel and the EU to reach an
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at
Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor,
told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, “While Germany’s position is often muddled,
Merkel has managed to largely avoid the visceral hostility to Israel, Jewish
sovereignty equality and self-determination displayed by many European
He continued, “She also has a better understanding of Middle
Eastern strategic realities, in contrast to the standard mythologies. This
translates into cooperation with the US and Israel on key issues. And although
Merkel was infected with the prevailing irrational dislike of Prime Minister
Netanyahu, like Obama, she has reassessed this aspect of conventional wisdom.
Her third term has the potential for greater strategic cooperation on Iran, and
a reassertion of Germany’s post- Holocaust role in rejecting the anti-Israel
demonization and acceptance of Palestinian victimization in Europe.”
lead candidates for chancellor of the major opposition parties have expressed
positions contrary to Israel’s security interests and the Merkel
administration’s views. A telling example is the Green Party’s co-chairman
Jürgen Trittin who sees the Islamic political militia Hezbollah as a “very
positive” factor in Lebanese politics and society.
He favors talks with
Hamas. His party’s poll numbers are in single digits because it is engulfed in a
pedophile scandal. It was disclosed this week that Trittin green-lighted, in his
party’s platform in the early 1980s, sex between children and
Though not a chancellor candidate, the head of the Social
Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel, termed Israel an “apartheid regime” during his 2012
visit to Israel. He said that in the future he would invoke Jewish critics who
have described Israel as an apartheid system, to insulate himself against any
accusations of bias.
Merkel described Israel less than two weeks before
the election as “still the only true democracy in the Middle East.”
lead candidate for the mainly anti-Israel German Left Party, Sahra Wagenknecht,
is a communist who views President Shimon Peres as a warmonger because he warned
of the Iranian existential threat to Israel in a speech in the Bundestag in
Wagenknecht, along with many of her Left Party parliamentarians,
refused to participate in a standing ovation when Peres spoke.
deputies justified their move because he played a role in Israel’s wars of
While Merkel’s views on Israel are diametrically opposed to
those of the center- left parties in Germany, she disappointed Israel’s
government by abstaining in the UN General Assembly vote last November to
recognize an independent Palestinian state.
On the security front, the
Merkel’s administration is slated to continue its delivery of advanced
Dolphin class submarines to Israel.
After Israel sealed a contract for a
sixth Dolphin in 2012, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Merkel in a letter
that it will “help us address Israel’s immense defense needs during these
turbulent times, and will contribute greatly to the long-term security of the
When contrasted to her fellow European and German
political leaders, Merkel is seen to display a good understanding of core Israel
Benjamin Weinthal covers European affairs for the
Post and is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.