Blog - German-Israeli relations
By Agata Peleszuk | 08/07/2010
The Bundestag parties passed a joint resolution condemning Israel's seizure of the Mavi Marmara flotilla and Gaza Strip blockade. In an immediate response the Jewish Central Council of Germany slammed the decision of the federal parliament. This course of events threw a shadow on the unique German-Israeli relations. Furthermore, the Bundestag call for brining Hamas to negotiations raised doubts about constituency of the counter-terrorist policy of Germany. The recent resolution seems to expose only a tip of the iceberg. Did German parties decide to cool down their correctness towards Israel? This time the facts speak for themselves.
In regard to the German support for Israel one should distinguish two separate issues – a general support for the Jewish state's existence and a political support for Israeli agenda in the Middle Eastern conflict. Whereas the majority of public opinion polls would reveal a solidarity with Jewish right to establish a state, the attitude towards Israel's narrative in the peace process was relatively less enthusiastic. The research shows that a critical stance of the German public on Israeli policies towards Palestinians could never be described as a minor tendency. One of the crucial factors influencing the feeling of freedom for criticism could be a generational change (Asseburg, 2005). From this perspective, a gradual decrease of generations that lived during the Third Reich era contributed to the more open and less emotionally burdened criticism towards Israeli policies. Interestingly, the Muslim component is not usually raised as responsible for disapproval of Israel. Until recently the Turkish community – the largest immigrant group in Germany – has not strongly identify with Palestinian people in the past.
From the political point of view, Germany has always been one of the most active advocates of the two-states solution. The peace process in the Middle East figured as the core issue in the international agenda of German authorities. Berlin represented a firm stand on Israel's right to exist, alongside a definite support for the Palestinian state. Nevertheless, the recent Bundestag resolution revealed that the German agenda towards Israel has some shortcomings. The Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union, the Social Democrats, the Greens and the German Left Party's unanimity in condemning Israel's operation against the Gaza flotilla angered the Jewish community and the Simon Wiesenthal Center who immediately called the resolution a “hypocrisy and double standard (im)morality”.
Taking the general criticism of the Gaza Strip blockade aside – since it is criticized by the international community as a whole – the greatest inconsistency of the German resolution lays in its approach towards Hamas. In 2002 and 2003 the political and military wings of the Palestinian organization were put on the European Union blacklist of terrorist entities. The EU decision was binding to member states that were required to freeze Hamas assets and establish measures enabling state courts to prosecute Hamas members. In spite of the fact that Germany itself did not ban Hamas, it did so in regard to the Al-Aqsa charity proven of fund-raising for Hamas. In addition, Germany withdraws from designating Hezbollach as a terrorist entity. In result, the organization and charities related to Hezbollach can legally operate in the German territory. Incoherent policy towards terrorist organizations generates problems not only in German-Israeli relations, but also in the international arena. Due to a harsh criticism of Israeli policy towards Palestinians and inconsistency in designating terrorist entities, press commentators began to describe German politicians with the term of “double standards”. The media pointed out the lack of Bundestag resolutions slamming Hamas for firing rockets on Southern Israel or condemning Hezbollach for breaking the agreement on its disarmament.
The Congressional Research Service's report on future of German-Israeli relations in elaboration on current areas of Israel's concerns stressed the visible raise of neo-Nazi activities in Germany, anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian public sentiments and general trends against the United States policy and military solutions to political crisis (Belkin, 2007). Concerns on anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli feelings should be confronted with a strong position of the Chancellor Angela Merkel who on various occasions emphasized the German duty of remembering the Holocaust and fighting every sign or form of anti-Semitism. On the other hand, reasonable doubt could be raised after representatives of the governing coalition were delegated to a conference in Bad Boll (southern Germany) where one of the speakers was Dr. Basem Naim – the Hamas health minister in Gaza Strip. In spite of the official denial of financing and supporting the event by the German ministry of interior, the participation of coalition members in the event at least could be called problematic.