German minister helped reverse Berlin's anti-Israel UN voting record

Jens Spahn, a prominent member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet, played a critical part in rolling-back Germany's anti-Israel voting record.

May 26, 2019 03:07
2 minute read.
Merkel speaks at CDU/CSU health congress

Merkel speaks at CDU/CSU health congress. (photo credit: ANNEGRET HILSE / REUTERS)


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Jens Spahn, a prominent member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet, played a critical part in rolling-back Germany’s anti-Israel voting record for the first time at the World Health Organization in Geneva.

Hanno Kautz, a spokesman for Spahn, told The Jerusalem Post that “Germany’s voting behavior during this World Health Assembly was closely coordinated by federal minister Spahn with federal minister Maas.”

Heiko Maas is the Social Democratic foreign minister in Merkel’s cabinet who has faced criticism from the Free Democratic Party for green-lighting scores of anti-Israel votes at the UN.

“The federal ministry of health is responsible for the World Health Organization and thus also for the positioning of Germany during the World Health Assembly in Geneva,” Kautz explained. “Federal minister Spahn is head of the German delegation at this year’s World Health Assembly and thus makes the final decision in close coordination with the ministries involved.”

Germany’s ambassador Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg voted against the resolution titled “Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.”

Spahn, a member of the Christian Democratic Union party, was a candidate to succeed Merkel as chairperson of the party when she steps down in 2021. He lost a three-candidate contest to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in December.

Israel’s Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff tweeted: “I welcome Germany’s vote in WHO Geneva against a politically motivated one-sided resolution in the Palestinian context. This is a significant vote after the declaration by FM Heiko Maas (11/5) on Israel’s role in UN [forums] and by virtue of Health Min[ister] Jens Spahn‘s important support.”

The US embassy to Germany tweeted similarly, “Thank you, Jens Spahn, for your leadership in standing against anti-Israel bias at the UN.”

The World Health Organization is an entity of the United Nations. It passed a resolution accusing Israel of responsibility for a health crisis in the disputed Palestinian territories.

The vote resulted in 96 in favor, 11 against and 21 abstaining.

The votes against the alleged anti-Israel resolution were from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and Hungary.

Germany had over the years, with one abstention, always voted against Israel on the resolution.

Kautz said Germany’s federal ministry of health, like Israel’s government, is currently a member of the executive board of World Health Organization for three years. He said Germany is working closely with Israel, as well as with other council members, to change the agenda of the World Health Assembly “in the sense of depoliticizing the World Health Assembly.”

Spahn, who is an openly gay 39-year-old, was married last December. He has criticized Merkel’s immigration policy that has permitted more one million refugees and migrants to enter the federal republic from mainly Muslim-majority countries.

Germany’s vote against a resolution singling out the Jewish state for condemnation appeared to give hope to critics of Merkel’s punitive votes against Israel at UN bodies. In 2018, the Social Democratic-controlled Foreign Ministry voted 16 times against Israel at the United Nations.

The British newspaper The Times described Spahn as, “a rising star in the right-wing faction of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU).”

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