Minister Guido Westerwelle meets with Ahmadinejad R 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Despite the historically and morally complex foundation of German- Israeli
relations, the past decade has seen a process of gradual normalization,
culminating in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech in the Knesset in
Exchange between the governments is as constructive as it is
dynamic, fueled by scientific, economical, cultural and military cooperation.
The societies too, reflect this trend. Tel Aviv-Berlin air traffic is a gold
mine for airlines; Berlin appears to be home to more Israeli artists than Tel
Aviv, and dozens of youth exchanges create authentic friendships every year. Add
to this the role of German negotiator Gerhard Conrad in freeing Gilad Schalit
and the chancellor’s determined position against a Palestinian unilateral
declaration of independence at the Security Council, and Germany’s label as
“Israel’s closest ally in Europe” is substantiated.
Of course this
idyllic picture doesn’t reflect the full reality, which is more complex, at
times also conflictual. Chancellor Merkel was among the first European leaders
to condemn the Israeli government following the announcement of new construction
in east Jerusalem right after this year’s UN General Assembly in September; the
Bundestag unanimously passed a resolution condemning Israel following the
flotilla incident in June, 2010, before investigations were completed, and long
before the Palmer Report published its findings that withdrew this resolution’s
legal and logical grounds. There are other examples as well.
political warmth and understanding has been stockpiled in the Israel-Germany
friendship to endure such tensions and criticisms, there is another dimension to
the relationship which requires more than political warmth to be
surmounted.There are times that the relationship is strained by paradox. Those
“times” are now.
LAST WEEK, a Neo-Nazi terror cell was uncovered in
Germany. Since 2000, the core trio of this cell killed at least 10 people – nine
dark-skinned immigrants and a German policewoman. The group attacked similar
targets (foreigners), used similar weapons and similar modi operandi, but local
authorities never drew the obvious conclusion that right-wing extremist
motivations and a terror cell might be at work.
The government reacted
fiercely. Merkel called it “a disgrace for Germany” and pledged to do everything
possible to clarify the issue, including whether local security authorities (the
Landeskriminalamt in Thüringen, from where the cell operated) might have been
involved in one way or another in covering for the cell. It doesn’t take a
psychologist to understand that the outrage in Merkel’s eyes while speaking
about this disturbing revelation is authentic.
The paradox? The silent
acceptance of a growing trend of cooperation with the EUsanctioned Iranian
regime, whose leader proudly denies the Holocaust, proudly preaches about
Israel’s extinction, and proudly clings on to a world- and foremost
Israel-threatening nuclear program.
Last year, for example, the Bundestag
Subcommittee on Foreign Cultural and Educational Policies dispatched a high
level delegation to Iran for a meeting with Holocaust denying, Hamas praising
and Hizbullah-supporting Majlis Chairman Ali Larijani. Last June the Bundestag
hosted an Iranian parliamentary delegation, awkwardly coinciding with a visit by
Knesset members in Berlin – to the latters’ outrage. Last week a German-Iranian
conference with the title “Economic Congress: Iranian Business Women Power” took
place in Berlin, causing fierce criticism among NGOs and exiled Iranians for the
cynical use of woman power to embellish a pro-Iranian trade event. That
conference was supported by the federal association for small- and medium-sized
businesses whose advisory board includes some leading German
Also last week, a delegation of the German Bishop’s
Conference flew to Iran to advance dialogue with high representatives of the
Islamic theology, members of which don’t shy away from repressing and chasing
away the Christian minority in Iran, already down to 130,000.
this can be explained by a not uncommon naïvité and wishful thinking when it
comes to the Middle East: Believing Ali Larijani when he says the
terrorsupporting regime is peace-loving; embracing the regime’s clerics when
they say that Christians and other minorities are cherished in Iran; and hoping
that fewer Iranian women will be stoned this year in Tehran if a trade event
supposedly empowering Iranian business women takes place in Berlin.
somewhat understandable historical reasons, the D for Deutschland turned into a
D for dialogue – as the universal solution for all conflicts in the world. In
this context however, it seems the “D” has turned into an end in itself, even if
it harms the very values it stands for.
At worst, the ongoing cooperation
is result of political cynicism and hypocrisy: turning a blind eye to the human
rights atrocities Iranians suffer every day, a deaf ear to the calls for wiping
Israel off the map, a silent tongue to the Holocaust denial, and all of the
above towards the Islamic regime’s nuclear ambitions – for the sake of remaining
the regime’s number one economic partner in Europe.
It is a paradox, and
not only in the context of the German-Israeli friendship.
scenario, the time for Germany’s political leadership to put an end to this
trend is now. German-Israeli relations do thrive on political warmth, solidarity
and understanding. But to preserve the values underlying this special
relationship, at times a harder political currency is necessary:
The writer is the winner of Israel’s prestigious “The Ambassador”
TV competition in 2006.
She is a speaker and consultant for public
diplomacy, communication and strategy in Israel and Germany.