German FM to arrive on first trip in post

Westerwelle coming to Is

Guido Westerwelle (photo credit: AP)
Guido Westerwelle
(photo credit: AP)
Germany's new foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, will arrive in Jerusalem on Monday for his first trip as foreign minister, a week before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and nine cabinet ministers travel to Berlin for expanded talks between the two governments. Westerwelle, head of the Free Democratic Party, is expected to discuss the agenda for those talks, in addition to other regional issues. Westerwelle's appointment following the German election in September raised concern in Jerusalem because of a feeling among some that the 47-year-old politician, who was born well after the Holocaust, did not have the same reflexive sympathy for Israel that has characterized other German leaders from across the political spectrum. In addition, his party has been involved in problematic entanglements with Israel. For instance, in 2002, a top FDP politician, Juergen Moellemann, distributed flyers attacking then-prime minister Ariel Sharon and Michel Friedman, who at the time was vice president of the Central Council of Jews. Many Germans, Jews and gentiles, considered Moellemann's election tactics to be anti-Semitic. Moellemann blamed Friedman's behavior for bringing about anti-Semitism, and Moellemann, according to his critics, stoked anti-Israeli sentiment among voters to reach the party's goal of 18 percent in a national election that year. Westerwelle failed to immediately distance himself from Moellemann and only after rising public pressure did he express regret about Moellemann's strident anti-Israel attacks. Moreover, Israeli officials said that the FDP has been problematic regarding Iran, expressing opposition to sanctions as a tool to get Teheran to ditch its nuclear program. Westerwelle visited Israel in 2002, following the Moellemann affair, partly - a German diplomatic official said at the time - to "distance himself from the stench of anti-Semitism" that was dogging his party. During a visit to Yad Vashem at the time, Westerwelle wrote the following in the visitors' book: "History does not end with a new generation. We must remain responsible for it. Human dignity is unassailable."