Analysis: Merkel’s flip-flop on Israel

Despite her government’s vote against an PLO upgrade at UNESCO last year, she chose to abstain at the UN.

Angela Merkel 260 (photo credit: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)
Angela Merkel 260
(photo credit: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)
BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 11th-hour decision to move on Thursday from a likely vote against an Palestinian upgrade to observer non-member state status at the UN to an abstention largely meshes with her administration’s zigzag approach toward the Jewish state.
Merkel assured Israel of her country’s commitment to the security of the Jewish state in a video podcast released Saturday entitled “Germany will always stand on the side of Israel.” Her administration, however, has had a mixed scorecard since 2005 when it comes to Jerusalem.
On what policy issues has Merkel been consistent and fulfilled her pledge that Israel’s security is “non-negotiable” for her government? The chancellor’s statements of support for the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Defense in November, aimed at stopping Hamas rocket fire into Israel, and her robust affirmation of the country’s right to launch Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, which also aspired to put an end to Hamas missiles targeting southern towns, were examples of prima facie pro- Israel evidence outlined in her famous 2008 Knesset speech.
During that address, Merkel declared that “every German chancellor before [her] has shouldered Germany’s special historical responsibility for Israel’s security.” In fact, she is the only German chancellor to have gone on the rhetorical offensive during an Israeli war of self-defense and aligned her government with the Jewish state against radical Islamic terror.
Her predecessors, like the Social Democrat Willy Brandt, only made empty promises of support to Israel. Take the Yom Kippur War in 1973 for example. While Brandt said Germany had Israel’s back, he denied the US the right to use the Bremerhaven harbor to ship sorely needed military arms to Israel during its existential war with neighboring Arab countries.
Merkel, in contrast, delivered sophisticated Dolphin submarines to Israel and is slated to continue furnishing such military hardware to Israel in order to maintain Jerusalem’s critical deterrence capability against an increasingly jingoistic Iran, to name just one hostile country in the region.
However, Merkel’s flip-flops center largely around the issue of settlement construction, the upgrade of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s entity at the UN and an anti- Israel Bundestag measure.
Her administration endorsed a Lebanonsponsored UN Security Council resolution in 2011 that condemned Israeli settlement construction as “illegal.”
Moreover, in 2010, she appeared to make no effort to convince her Christian Democratic Union party members in parliament, as well as her coalition partners from the Bavarian Christian Social Union and Free Democrats parties, to vote against a Bundestag resolution that slammed Israel for intercepting the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara ship, a confrontation that resulted in the deaths of nine alleged Turkish terrorists.
Jewish NGOs and German critics denounced the German resolution as unfairly singling out Israel for exercising its right to enforce a legal naval blockade against the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Despite her government’s vote against an PLO upgrade at the UNESCO in Paris last year, she chose to abstain on Thursday at the UN.
From Israel’s perspective, Merkel’s stances on PLO statehood measures, which seek to bypass direct negotiations with Israel, along with her wobbly positions in UN international forums and when handling party deputies in the Bundestag that bash Israel, have represented a marked lack of consistency.