'German magazine manufactured diplomatic crisis with Israel'

Der Spiegel alleged that Israel denied Steinmeier’s plane permission to fly through its airspace during a trip to the Middle East in May because he snubbed a visit to Israel.

June 2, 2015 08:33
2 minute read.
German news magazine Der Spiegel is seen at a newsstand in Athens

German news magazine Der Spiegel is seen at a newsstand in Athens. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israel’s embassy in Berlin and the Foreign Ministry vehemently denied a German Der Spiegel article alleging that Israel’s air traffic authority denied German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s plane permission to fly through its airspace during a trip to the Middle East in May because he snubbed a visit to Israel.

”With regret we take note of the news item in the new Spiegel edition,” Adi Farjon, the spokeswoman for Israel’s embassy in Berlin, wrote to The Jerusalem Post. “Although the flight route of the foreign minister was presented correctly, the described reasons for a change of flight route is completely unfounded. Flight routes to Israel and over Israel are determined by Israel’s air authority and dependent on many factors; political considerations, however, do not play a role.”

“The named reason is therefore not comprehensible,” Farjon added. “At the time that Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled to Lebanon and Jordan, our Foreign Ministry was already preparing the Israel trip of the foreign minister long before the flight question to the Israeli air traffic authorities.”

Ulrich Sahm, a veteran German journalist in Israel, asserted in a Monday article that Spiegel manufactured the crisis between Israel and Steinmeier.

Spiegel’s contention is astonishing, because at that time it was already known that Steinmeier would be coming to Israel in two weeks to receive an honorary doctorate at Hebrew University,” wrote Sahm, a prominent German journalist in the German-language website Israelnetz. The article’s title states: "Spiegel invents annoyance between Israel and Germany."

Spiegel relied on unnamed sourcing. The magazine wrote it “learned” about the diplomatic row.   

“Israel did not deny Israeli airspace to foreign minister Steinmeier’s flight from Beirut to Amman,” Sahm’s report quoted a spokesperson from Germany’s Foreign Ministry as saying. The spokesperson added that Israel does not allow direct flight movements from Lebanon into Israeli airspace because of security reasons. This was not an “unfriendly act,” said the spokesperson.

Israel and Lebanon are technically at war. Lebanon is an enemy country for Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah has previously violated Israel’s airspace with drone activity.

A senior Israeli official said that he personally dealt with the “technical affairs” of Steinmeier’s flight and there was “in no way irritation.” According to the official, Steinmeier’s plane could have only used the routes over Damascus or Cyprus and then over Israel or Egypt.

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