When Foreign Minister Heiko Maas left for Israel early Wednesday morning, Israel's ambassador to Berlin once again made the importance of this trip clear. The visit reflected "the depth and importance of German-Israeli relations for both countries," said Jeremy Issacharoff, reminding the premise of German foreign policy in Israel. Out of the debt to the Shoa, Germany bears a special responsibility towards the state of the survivors, the state of Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now wants to annex around 30 percent of the West Bank. Israel has occupied the Palestinian Territories since 1967, thereby breaking international law. The planned annexation, which is part of US President Donald Trump's Middle East plan, is causing widespread opposition from the EU and neighboring Arab countries. For the special relationship between Israel and Germany, it means a new stress test: On July 1, the Israeli government wants to take the first steps to expand Israel. And on July 1, Germany takes over the presidency of the EU Council and the UN Security Council - and should represent the positions of both bodies against Israel. The Federal Government is running out of time in the role of the silent mediator.
Maas was denied a visit to Ramallah
As the first trip abroad after the outbreak of the corona pandemic, Heiko Maas therefore visited Israel. The Foreign Minister would also have liked to go to Ramallah, but Israel denied him access to the Palestinian Territories by referring to Corona. Maas could have turned it into a political issue. At least some observers consider the refusal of entry to be politically motivated. However, the Federal Foreign Office complied and instead organized a video conference with the Palestinian leadership. After all, according to the signal, Israel, which still does not let foreigners into the country to curb the virus, even approved the visit of the German politician.
After all, one could say that Maas was also able to meet the acting Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as Benny Gantz, the alternating Prime Minister and current Defense Minister, and made a statement to the press at noon together with his counterpart Gabi Aschkenasi. Germany is deeply concerned about the annexation plans, said Maas and warned of the breach of international law. Ashkenazi said that the annexation, which violated international law, was "an important milestone for the region" and would be carried out "responsibly and in full coordination with the United States" and made it clear who alone could dissuade Israel from its plan - not Germany, but only that UNITED STATES. So what can Maas achieve with his visit? The short answer is: not much at first glance.
Israel's security is Germany's rationale
There was one point in time when diplomatic relations were established with West Germany in May 1965 when both sides were very close for the first time. Since then, and more and more in recent years, the two have moved away from each other.
Angela Merkel thinks little of populists and therefore cannot gain much from her long-time Israeli counterpart Netanyahu. While she has been insisting on the two-state solution for years and warning against the illegal construction of Israeli settlements, Netanyahu has approved one settlement after the other. The federal government is not looking away, but is watching and has to watch how realities shift in Israel.
Israel's security is Germany's raison d'état, this premise is as firm as the wall between Israel and the Palestinian Territories. With the planned annexation, more and more Israelis fear that their security is not only threatened by external dangers, but now also by the policies of their own government. The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are in danger. The Palestinian leadership has declared that all cooperation in the fight against terror has ended. What this cooperation looked like can be seen in the internationally successful Netflix series Fauda : Palestinian security forces are crucial partners in the fight against the terrorists of Hamas and Islamic jihad. The terrorist threat is real in Israel, but cohesion with the Palestinians could soon only be fiction.