September 30, 2021 | Israel Hayom

Making sense of German electorate’s shift to the Left

Israel should not be under any delusion that the Social Democratic Party has its back. If anything, the slide to the Left, as it is being called in Germany, has serious implications for the Jewish state.
September 30, 2021 | Israel Hayom

Making sense of German electorate’s shift to the Left

Israel should not be under any delusion that the Social Democratic Party has its back. If anything, the slide to the Left, as it is being called in Germany, has serious implications for the Jewish state.

The composition of the next German government remains unclear but one thing is certain: With the Social Democratic Party (SPD) securing a victory over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CSU) in the federal election, the country has undergone a Linksrutsch – a “slide to the Left.”

From the perspective of Israel’s security and defense establishment, the prospect of a left-wing chancellor beholden to an increasingly anti-Israel base does not bode well. As head of the largest party, the SPD’s Olaf Scholz has the best chance to replace Merkel after her nearly 16 years in office.

In May, Norbert Walter-Borjans, the co-chair of the Social Democrats, sought to crack the German schoolmaster whip on Israel with respect to arms transfers. Walter-Borjans comes from the radical wing of the party and suggested Berlin not to give a blank check to the Jewish state when it came to defending itself. To be fair, he did not urge the end of arms sales to Israel.

However, the calls from leading SPD politicians to clamp down on Israel continue to grow. “Germany must not deliver weapons to conflict areas and to dictators,” said the SPD politician Ralf Stegner, adding, “What about Saudi Arabia? What about Qatar? I am also asking: What about Israel?”

Scholz declared to supporters on Sunday that the predicted election results represented “a very clear mandate to ensure now that we put together a good, pragmatic government for Germany.” But it is hard to believe that he would be able to institute a pragmatic foreign policy toward Jerusalem in light of the widespread anti-Israel sentiment.

During the four years of coalition with Merkel’s party, the SPD has aggressively targeted Israel with resolutions at the UN and sympathy for BDS.

Heiko Maas, the Social Democratic foreign minister who supposedly went into politics “because of Auschwitz,” did not object when his ambassador to the United Nations Christoph Heusgen equated Israel to the jihadi terrorist movement Hamas at the Security Council. Heusgen’s parallel secured him a spot on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s worst outbreaks of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism in 2019.

Andreas Görgen, Maas’s director-general for cultural affairs and communication, was included in the 2020 list for his advocacy of the BDS campaign targeting Israel.

Maas has green-lighted his diplomats celebrating, at Tehran’s embassy in Berlin, the Islamic Revolution that ushered in the regime of Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979.

Maas is a zealous advocate for the Iran nuclear agreement and for trade with the Islamic republic. For example, the top German diplomat sent the foreign ministry’s then-business director Miguel Berger to a conference to boost trade with Iran’s regime in 2019.

Bjorn Stritzel, a journalist for Germany’s largest newspaper, Bild, wrote at the time, “While the Tehran regime plays with fire, Germany is offering the mullahs a stage in Berlin! Yesterday, the Federal Foreign Office sent a business director [Berger] to a conference to give tips on how to cleverly bypass US sanctions against Iran. Every penny from the business deals that were initiated there [at the conference] flows directly into Tehran’s terrorist coffers, with which the mullahs oppress their own people.”

Maas has spouted the usual boilerplate language about countering Israel-related antisemitism in Germany, namely, that “there is no place for antisemitism” in the Federal Republic. He employed this type of condemnation when German Christians and German Muslims burned Israeli flags after the US relocated its embassy to Jerusalem.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the president of Germany and a fellow Social Democrat, triggered international headlines when he infamously sent a telegram on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution to Iran’s then-President Hassan Rouhani, congratulating the clerical regime “in the name” of the German people. On a side note, who still sends telegrams?

Maas’s predecessor as foreign minister, the Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel, reiterated his description of Israel as an “apartheid regime” in 2018 and belittled the Holocaust. Gabriel claimed that Social Democrats suffered the same persecution and fate as Jews during the Nazi period – an assertion that is demonstrably false.

Perhaps most troubling for Israel, the next generation of the Social Democratic Party is hostile to Israel. The Jusos, the party’s youth movement, tends to produce future chancellors and members of parliament.

The Jusos, SPD supporters aged 14-35, passed a resolution in 2020 declaring solidarity with the youth wing of Fatah, the main faction of the PLO, as a “sister organization.”

Fatah Youth opposes Israel’s existence. In one illustration of this, Fatah Youth members wore fake explosive belts and chanted slogans calling for Israel’s destruction at a demonstration in the West Bank in 2018.

The main threats to Israel’s security, from Iran’s regime to its chief proxy Hezbollah to Hamas, have nothing to fear from any SPD effort to counter their growth and strength in the Middle East.

Israel should not be under any delusion that the SPD has its back.

To recall an example from the past, when Israel was on the ropes during the Yom Kippur War, and to the acute frustration of President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, then SPD Chancellor Willy Brandt stuck to an ironclad “neutral position toward the conflict in the Middle East.” The US sought to use the German port of Bremerhaven to deliver weapons to the Israelis. Brandt demanded an immediate halt to Americans loading freighters under the Israeli flag in the port.

Brandt had previously declared Germany would show solidarity with Israel and that there could be “no neutrality of the heart.”

The shift leftward, the slide to the Left as it is being called in Germany, has serious implications for Israel.

Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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