Israel's ambassador to Germany recently described relations between the two states as "excellent," adding that this did not mean there was always complete agreement on all issues. Both points are true. Yet the widespread criticism of Israeli policy towards the Palestinian population is evidently not seen as an offer to engage in dialogue on the controversial issues. Instead there has recently been a growing trend for criticism to be met with insinuations and suspicions. The critics are accused of denying Israel's right to exist, of being friends of Hamas and Hizbullah, of comparing Israel with Nazi Germany and of welcoming the idea of Iran gaining nuclear weapons. In general, their criticism of Israeli policy is seen as anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism. We cannot ignore the fact that, despite a welcome revitalization of Jewish life and culture, anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi organizations and activities are still present in our country, and attacks on Jewish institutions still occur. These are things which we must do everything in our power to stop and prevent - something on which both supporters and critics of Israeli policy are in full agreement. It is not possible to provide any quotes or cite any statements or actions to support the accusations levelled against critics, such as recently in The Jerusalem Post. The issue at hand is not Israel's right to exist, which none of us considers open to question. What is at issue are the massive human rights violations in the occupied territories and Gaza, which have been documented and criticized by the UN for years. The issue at hand is not alliances or solidarity with Hamas. We too condemn terrorist attacks and rocket attacks. What is at issue is the political principle that contact should be made with opponents, too, in order to halt the violence and reach a solution acceptable to both sides. And criticism of Zionist ideology does not call into question Israel's existence, but rather the entitlement of settlers and their government to annex Palestinian territory beyond the 1967 borders. Accusations of welcoming the idea of Iranian nuclear armament that were brought against us are completely and thoroughly wrong. Iranian President Ahmadinejad's unacceptable rhetoric is certainly inflaming anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiment in the country. Nevertheless, the current spiral of reciprocal threats needs to be defused. This may only be achieved through dialogue. Iran's insistence on uranium enrichment for civilian purposes under the control of the IAEA is in conformity with international law - even though we strongly reject the use of nuclear power for military as well as civilian purposes in general. We fear that threats and sanctions will ultimately be a self-fulfilling prophecy, achieving merely that which they seek to prevent. Why does the United States refuse to grant Iran, surrounded by US protectorates and states possessing nuclear weapons, the security agreement it has called for and a mutual undertaking to refrain from the use of force? Our hope therefore lies in a change in US policy towards Iran under Obama: a shift away from the unsuccessful policy of sanctions pursued by his predecessor, and in the direction indicated by his recent offer of negotiations without preconditions. That would also strengthen Israel's security. Prof. Paech is the foreign policy spokesman for the Left Party parliamentary group in the German Bundestag.