Germany has a “very special responsibility toward the State of Israel,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle as he visited Jerusalem on Monday and Tuesday. His visit highlighted the bond growing between the two countries. Comments from both German and Israeli politicians show how this bond will only get stronger in the future—at least on the surface.
Israeli Deputy Prime minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that he hopes “for a far deeper and more active involvement of Germany in our region.”
“We would very much like to see them more involved and taking leading positions in everything that happens here in the Middle East,” he said.
Lieberman is not the only Israeli politician with this hope. When Spiegel Online asked the central-left Kadima floor leader Dalia Itzik, “Would you support a larger involvement of [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel in promoting a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict?” she replied: “I would ask her for deeper involvement. I would like to see her as a mediator. It is important that Angela Merkel gets more engaged in the peace process.”
Westerwelle stated that Germany was prepared to help Israel deal with the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. “Our patience has its limits,” he said. “Iran being in possession of nuclear weapons is unacceptable for Israel. It is unacceptable for the community of nations.”
“The security of Israel is non-negotiable for no one, and particularly not for us,” he said.
Merkel has done much to establish strong ties with Israel. Last year she established a program of annual joint German-Israeli cabinet meetings, the next meeting being scheduled for November 30. When Westerwelle took office last month, the first foreign minister he called was Lieberman.
But the main reason for the growing ties between Germany and Israel is the weakness of the United States. “Israel’s lack of confidence that Washington will take a sufficiently firm position on Iran is at the heart of its diplomatic initiatives in Europe,” writes American think tank Stratfor. “Israel has watched as Washington extended deadline after deadline for Iran to get serious about the negotiations. With yet another deadline approaching at the end of December for Iran to accept a nuclear fuel proposal, Israel isn’t holding its breath—but instead, is taking matters into its own hands” (November 24).
“Germany … plays a key role in the Iran imbroglio,” says Stratfor. “Israel’s recent diplomatic efforts with Germany therefore must be viewed in the context of Germany as pivot in the Iranian nuclear standoff.”
Israel is proud of the fact that its relations with Germany are not soured by events of the past. “Young Israelis are in the process of ‘dehistorizing’ their lives,” says professor of sociology at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Nathan Sznaider. He is proud of the fact that “this is a generation that refuses to live in the past.”
Speaking at a Holocaust memorial service in Berlin last month, Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said that “we will not deposit our security in the hands of foreigners.” But Ashkenazi is one of the few Israeli leaders who remember history. Those that scorn history are already looking to Germany for protection. Rather than worrying about German troops in Lebanon, Lieberman thanked Germany for sending them.
As the U.S. becomes increasingly impotent, watch for Israel to rely more and more on Germany. Watch for it to do the opposite of what Ashkenazi said, and completely trust its security to Germany. And watch for it to turn out badly, just as any student of history would expect it to.
For more information, see our article “Can Israel Trust Germany?” •