How clear is Scholz to Benjamin Netanyahu?
Es are amazing tones before the Israeli Prime Minister’s visit Benjamin Netanyahu can be heard in Berlin. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was critical of the new Israeli government’s judicial reform, thereby confirming what Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had said earlier. When the government spokesman confirmed and commented on Netanyahu’s meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the beginning of the week, it sounded different than usual.
Steffen Hebestreit said he did not want to comment on the reforms in Israel “from the sidelines”. In principle, however, the federal government is convinced of the great value of parliamentary democracy. Any changes to a constitution would have to be discussed with each other “always very carefully”.
Ever since Netanyahu formed a government with far-right coalition partners in December, Berlin has been looking to Jerusalem with concern. Like its predecessor governments, the traffic light coalition is reluctant to criticize Israel. Now, however, the protests in Israel against the imminent weakening of the judiciary are so violent that even the federal government cannot ignore them. “We see big demonstrations in Tel Aviv and elsewhere against these government plans,” Hebestreit said.
“We have to be clear now”
It is precisely registered on the Spree that although there have been major protests in Israel before, the quality is different this time. The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Joseph Schuster, expressed understanding for the protests against the judicial reform. And Gabriela Heinrich, chairwoman of the German-Israeli parliamentary group, told the FAZ: “We have to be clear now because the news from Israel is really worrying.” She says: “Precisely because of our deep friendship with Israel, one should also worry about that State government actions on the ground with all clarity.”
The road to this friendship was long. The first Israeli prime minister climbed down a fire escape to another hotel room to meet a German chancellor for the first time. On March 14, 1960, David Ben-Gurion and Konrad Adenauer on the 35th floor of the Waldorf Astoria in New York. It was an important step towards the close ties between the two countries today, which are anything but a matter of course after the Holocaust.
In 1952, the two states had agreed on payments to Israel in the Luxembourg Agreement, and there was talk of reparations. In 1965, the two countries also officially established diplomatic relations. The traffic light coalition agreement today says: “For us, Israel’s security is a matter of state.” After all, it’s not just Germany’s past, Israel is also the only democracy in the region. Immediately afterwards, however, the contract also says: “We will continue to work for a negotiated two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.” And that’s where it gets more complicated with a view to the actions of the new government in Israel.
“German politicians must understand that Israel is facing a turning point,” says Muriel Asseburg from the German Science and Politics Foundation. The domestic political legislative projects threaten the end of liberal democracy, “with the move away from a two-state rule and the restructuring in the ministries, the transition from a temporary, military occupation to annexation will be completed”. If Germany wants to exert influence, then now is a critical time. It must also be about a public signal. It’s about building up counter-pressure and sending a signal to the Israeli population about the values that Germany supports.
Heinrich says that in addition to judicial reform, the construction of more Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the recognition of illegal settlements threaten to divide society. “That stands in the way of a two-state solution.” German politicians must address these dubious developments. But Heinrich doesn’t think much of not even receiving Netanyahu, as 1,000 Israeli artists, writers and scientists from Berlin have demanded. “If you want to talk to each other and you have the opportunity, you should do it in private.”