September 23, 2013 | The Jerusalem Post
Analysis: What Does Angela Merkel’s Election Win Mean for Israel?
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s third consecutive electoral victory has profound consequences for Israel’s support in Europe and its security cooperation with the Federal Republic.
To understand German- Israeli relations under Merkel, it helps to compare her positions with those of her adversaries. Merkel’s party – the Christian Democratic Union (along with its sister party the Christian Social Union) – is the only German party to strictly oppose the new EU settlement guidelines. Her party’s statements on the guidelines, which bar EU cooperation with Israeli entities beyond the Green line, declare that the guidelines are not “objective requirements” and urge the EU to modify its regulations.
Merkel’s principal opponent, the Social Democrats, issued a statement to the main German-Jewish newspaperJüdische Allgemeine, declaring the party’s support for the EU sanctions targeting Israel’s work in the disputed territories.
The radical Left Party and the Green Party strongly favor the EU sanctions imposed on the Jewish state.
Merkel’s coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), wrote that there “are no EU sanctions against Israel” and the FDP rejects sanctions against the “only functioning democracy in the Middle East.”
The FDP did not explicitly declare the EU guidelines to be non-objective and simply called on Israel and the EU to reach an agreement.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, “While Germany’s position is often muddled, Merkel has managed to largely avoid the visceral hostility to Israel, Jewish sovereignty equality and self-determination displayed by many European officials.”
He continued, “She also has a better understanding of Middle Eastern strategic realities, in contrast to the standard mythologies. This translates into cooperation with the US and Israel on key issues. And although Merkel was infected with the prevailing irrational dislike of Prime Minister Netanyahu, like Obama, she has reassessed this aspect of conventional wisdom. Her third term has the potential for greater strategic cooperation on Iran, and a reassertion of Germany’s post- Holocaust role in rejecting the anti-Israel demonization and acceptance of Palestinian victimization in Europe.”
The lead candidates for chancellor of the major opposition parties have expressed positions contrary to Israel’s security interests and the Merkel administration’s views. A telling example is the Green Party’s co-chairman Jürgen Trittin who sees the Islamic political militia Hezbollah as a “very positive” factor in Lebanese politics and society.
He favors talks with Hamas. His party’s poll numbers are in single digits because it is engulfed in a pedophile scandal. It was disclosed this week that Trittin green-lighted, in his party’s platform in the early 1980s, sex between children and adults.
Though not a chancellor candidate, the head of the Social Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel, termed Israel an “apartheid regime” during his 2012 visit to Israel. He said that in the future he would invoke Jewish critics who have described Israel as an apartheid system, to insulate himself against any accusations of bias.
Merkel described Israel less than two weeks before the election as “still the only true democracy in the Middle East.”
The lead candidate for the mainly anti-Israel German Left Party, Sahra Wagenknecht, is a communist who views President Shimon Peres as a warmonger because he warned of the Iranian existential threat to Israel in a speech in the Bundestag in 2010.
Wagenknecht, along with many of her Left Party parliamentarians, refused to participate in a standing ovation when Peres spoke.
The deputies justified their move because he played a role in Israel’s wars of self defense.
While Merkel’s views on Israel are diametrically opposed to those of the center- left parties in Germany, she disappointed Israel’s government by abstaining in the UN General Assembly vote last November to recognize an independent Palestinian state.
On the security front, the Merkel’s administration is slated to continue its delivery of advanced Dolphin class submarines to Israel.
After Israel sealed a contract for a sixth Dolphin in 2012, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Merkel in a letter that it will “help us address Israel’s immense defense needs during these turbulent times, and will contribute greatly to the long-term security of the Jewish state.”
When contrasted to her fellow European and German political leaders, Merkel is seen to display a good understanding of core Israel security interests.
Benjamin Weinthal covers European affairs for the Post and is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.