Chancellor Angela Merkel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrive for a news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 19, 2016..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to begin a two-day visit to Israel on Wednesday, and her country’s perturbing policy on Iran is likely to top the agenda in her meetings with Israeli leaders. In a video podcast last week, Merkel stressed that Germany and Israel share a unique relationship, but she was silent about Berlin’s continued support for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and Germany’s growing trade with Tehran, despite Iran’s repeated calls for Israel’s destruction and its support of terrorist groups in groups in the Middle East.
“A unique relationship connects Germany and Israel,” Merkel said in advance of this week’s seventh German-Israel joint cabinet consultation in Jerusalem. “We can be grateful that we are today close partners and friends.”
But as Jerusalem Post
correspondent Benjamin Weinthal reported, Merkel and her foreign minister, Heiko Maas, also back the European Union’s “special purpose vehicle (SPV)” mechanism to permit financial transactions with Iran. The SPV undercuts the US financial sanctions on Iran’s regime that are due to go into effect on November 5.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed Israel’s frustration with Europe in his recent address to the UN General Assembly in which he disclosed the site of Tehran’s secret atomic warehouse and its continuing nuclear drive. “Europe and others are appeasing Iran by trying to help it bypass those new sanctions,” Netanyahu declared. His address may be viewed, Weinthal noted, as part of a widening Israeli-German rift over Merkel’s pro-Iran position.
During her trip to Israel, her first in more than four years, Merkel will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa at a ceremony on Thursday at the Israel Museum in recognition of her “groundbreaking leadership,” her opposition to antisemitism and her strengthening of scientific cooperation between Germany and Israel.
While we commend Merkel for her friendship and warm relationship with Israel, we must also question her rapprochement with Iran and support of the bad nuclear deal. We expect this subject to be addressed when she engages in a dialogue with University of Haifa president Prof. Ron Robin at the Israel Museum. The ceremony will be attended by both University of Haifa and German students, who will be given the opportunity to ask Merkel questions.
In comments reported by Tablet magazine, the president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Dr. Josef Schuster, suggested that Germany has failed to internalize the lessons of the Holocaust. According to Schuster, Tablet reported, Merkel’s “flourishing trade with a regime in Tehran that is both the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world and also the world’s top sponsor of lethal antisemitism and Holocaust denial, is incompatible with the spirit of the Federal Republic’s own foundational commitments, and with the laws of a country where Holocaust denial is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.”
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We support Schuster’s call for “an immediate halt to any economic relations with Iran. Any trade with Iran means a benefit for radical and terrorist forces, and a hazard and destabilization for the region.”
So far, Merkel has rejected the pleas of Israel, the US, Schuster and others to halt her support of Iran, choosing instead to find ways to circumvent the new American sanctions. She said in her podcast that because of the Holocaust, “Germany carries a special responsibility regarding its relationship to Israel.” But if she wants to be on the right side of history, the chancellor should reconsider her relationship with Tehran, the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism that could pose an existential threat to Israel. If Iran realizes its dream to become a nuclear power, it could threaten not only Israel and the rest of the Middle East, but the US and Europe as well – and that includes Germany.
The Islamic Republic of Iran would like nothing more than to see the erosion of democracy and the spread of extremist Islamic ideology around the world. Merkel, perhaps Europe’s most powerful leader, is capable of ending German support for the Ayatollahs’ destructive dreams. We urge her to change her course.
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