Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, criticized the new Israeli government, especially its right-wing leaders, for creating “provocations” and promoting nationalistic ideals, in an op-ed he wrote for the Tagesspiegel news site. He also stressed that he won’t give up on Israel and its people.
“I reject many things in the new Israeli government,” Schuster wrote, adding that “it will be necessary to continue to critically examine it and its work.” He shared that he is uncomfortable with “right-wing extremists with criminal records [that have a seat] in the cabinet” or “making changes in the law so that corrupt politicians can become ministers.” He said that this situation causes “a low point in Israeli political history.”
Schuster added that “the swearing-in of this right-wing religious government must have been a queasy moment for many Likud MKs as well” and that “it is important to state clearly what violates Israel’s traditional liberal values. Modern Israel emerged as a counter-model to inhumanity and injustice.” Yet, he added, the solidarity of German Jewry “belongs to the country and its people even in these times.”
“There must be no ‘knee-jerk’ abandonment of Israel,” he stressed. “This includes that we do not fall into purely emotional evaluations, but keep to reason and moderation, as is customary in democratic states, even if individual positions and actions may fall from [our] own values.”
Schuster, who has been president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany since 2014, further stressed that “large sections of the Israeli population” reject the course of the current Israeli government. “The majority of people are afraid and worried about their country,” he said.
Schuster addresses Ben-Gvir's Temple Mount visit
He also criticized National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) for his visit to Temple Mount last week. Schuster called the visit a “provocation,” even though it “did not violate the current status quo of this site.” He explained that Ben-Gvir “is interested in a spike of escalation with the Hamas terrorist organization.”
Schuster explained to the German readers that there is now “a new test” for the state of “rule and law in Israel.” He wrote that the political situation in Israel “does not mean that a majority of Israelis are far-right or theocratic, rather it is a product of the impasse of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We should have the courage to address this,” he stressed.
Germany currently has between 100,000 and 200,000 Jews, a vast majority of whom are refugees from the former Soviet Union. Thousands of Jews immigrated to Germany in 2022 as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.