Monitoring Report February 2018
Revelation oath of the coalition talks
After a five-month standoff, during which politicians of the negotiating parties held bored voters at bay with empty rhetoric coming out of all-night negotiation marathons, the party leaders of the CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic and Christian Socialist Parties) and the SPD (German Socialist Party) wrestled their way through to the decision on February 7th that they were willing to enter into this forced marriage. Now, only the majority vote of the members of the SPD stands between the will of the political decision makers and the actual recreation of the "Grand Coalition".
Europe first – means Israel not last, but least
With its Coalition Contract i, this grand coalition positions itself as an opposite pole to Trump's America. While the slogans "America first" and "Make America great again" are defining the politics of national interest in the USA, the so-called GroKo is banking totally on "Europe first". In fact, the preamble of the contract reads like it was written for the next European Commission and not by the future government of a sovereign national state. The dream of the newly designated German Foreign Minister, Martin Schulz, of a United States of Europe found its way anonymously into the Coalition Contract. The absolute focus of Germany's (foreign) policy on Europe does not bode well for the relationship between Germany and Israel.
What does the new old Grand Coalition mean for Germany-Israel relationships?
The first draft of the Foreign Policy Committee Paper ii, in which foreign policy workers from the CDU/CSU and SPD parties joined to work out Germany's Near East and Israel policies for the next four years under the banner "the regions of the Near and Middle East, the Gulf Regions and North Africa", presented a radical shift from the existing GroKo policy (based on the Coalition Contract of 2013 iii). The shift is toward a more one-sided, pro-Palestinian, Israel critical and anti-American Middle East policy. Neither the character of Israel as a "Jewish and democratic State" nor the commitment to the security of Israel found expression in the draft. While Israel was decidedly criticized for building settlements, no critical reference to Palestinian activities was made. Accordingly, Jewish organizations, NGOs with strong ties to Israel and political representatives of the current German "Reason of Sate" expressed concern — even outrage. The German-Israeli Association made the drastic statement in an open letter that this draft "laid an axe to the friendly relationship with Israel" iv. The Middle East Freedom Forum (Naffo) reacted "with the greatest possible dismay".
The heavily criticized paper, which, according to BILD information, was significantly influenced by the former Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, and the Chairman of the CDU Foreign Policy Committee, Norbert Röttgen, was much more sophisticated and balanced in its final form. But only after sometimes angry, sometimes diplomatic interventions, which went all the way to the office of the Chancellor. The DIG (Deutsche Israelische Gesellschaft – German Israeli Association) expressed their special thanks to Members of the German Parliament Gitta Connemann (CDU), Christian Lange (SPD) and former Member of Parliament, Michaela Engelmeier (SPD)v, whose excellent letter to the SPD negotiation leaders Schulz, Nahles and Klingbeil was courageously published by Gerd Buurmann on his blog.vi The heavy bias of the first draft of the Coalition Contract regarding Israel provides a clear look deep into the foreign policy and diplomatic soul of the establishment!
We are friends, but I don't know why – The attitude of a Foreign Minister, talking himself into oblivion
According to statements made by Sigmar Gabriel on his last official visit to Israel (for the time being at least), it is becoming more and more difficult for him, people like him (the Foreign Ministry?) and his Party comrades to accept Israel’s “unfair handling of the Palestinians” and to explain why we as Germans and as the Federal Republic of Germany should continue to support Israel vii. Gabriel’s “difficulty” becomes very obvious to anyone reading the so-called First Foreign Affairs Committee Paper. It contains not a single positive word about Israel! Buurmann shows clearly that there would have been plenty of reasons and opportunities to declare support for Israel viii.
Can Martin Schulz explain Israel?
But both the final draft of the Coalition Contract as well as the designated candidate for the position of Foreign Minister show glaring weaknesses.
As far as the Contract is concerned, there is no mention of Hamas or of the current confirmations that Mahmud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are absolutely unwilling to pursue a peaceful solution. This unwillingness is clearly expressed in the rejection of Oslo, the congratulation of terror attacks and the description of Israel as a “colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism”ix . Not only are these items missing, but the “incitement to agitation and violence” on the part of the Palestinian Authority also remains anonymous and undefined. In contrast, the Coalition Contract of 2013 referred to the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic relations with Israel and promised to “appropriately honor” that fact. In 2018, there was no similar reference – even though this year marks the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, which, according to the CDU party, is a reason for celebration.
As far as Martin Schulz is concerned, the competence of any high-level German diplomat to strengthen German-Israeli relationships and to explain their importance who would glibly spout untested Palestinian propaganda about water theft in a speech to the Israeli Knesset... or who would describe via twitter Mahmud Abbas’ refurbished version of the medieval anti-Semitic accusation of Jews poisoning drinking wells as an “inspired speech”... must at the very least be seriously questioned. The change over from Gabriel to Schulz can only be described as “jumping out of the frying pan into the fire”.
By stubbornly hanging onto fondly held European dogma and phraseology, the German Foreign Policy position regarding Israel - according to the Coalition Contract - undermines American efforts to revive the dead peace negotiations with the Palestinians. It makes Israel solely responsible for the absence of peace and downplays or ignores Palestinian negligence, misdeeds, verbal agitations and even terror attacks. Whether regarding Jerusalem, settlements or UNRWA, one holds fast to established dogmatic positions. Against all better judgment, good will is attributed to the Palestinians, their interests are honored and the peace efforts of the USA are undermined. The Coalition Contract makes it clear that, under German leadership, the EU should be built up to become the mediator in the Middle East peace process – but that can only happen at Israel’s expense. Yet, good relationships with the USA and Israel, which have grown out of the right answer to the darkest chapter in Germany’s history, must not be sacrificed on the altar of a pro-Iranian, pro-Palestinian Middle East policy determined by the EU.