Diplomatic warning signals show growing Israeli-German tension

By Keren Setton Source:Xinhua Published: 2016-5-30 23:53:01

Israel and Germany have had special ties since 1965 when the two countries established relations. However, in recent weeks, reports coming out of Germany suggest that the country's support for Israel is wavering.

The two countries have strong economic and military ties. German and Israeli intelligence agencies reportedly cooperate and Germany has supplied the Israeli military with sit submarines.

But recent reports that Israel's hard-line stance on the Palestinian issue is negatively affecting the Israel-Germany relations indicate that the thought that German support for Israel is unconditional is mistaken, observers say. While Germany can be considered one of Israel's greatest allies, it reserves the right to criticize Israel's policies and warn that its support might be in jeopardy.

"The commitment to Israel is part of Germany's raison d'etre, it is an extreme commitment," explains Moshe Zimmerman, director of the Richard Koebner Minerva Center for German History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, "the commitment will remain but you can be against the occupation and still support this commitment."

Zimmerman is referring to Israel's occupation of territories in the West Bank since the 1967 Mideast War. Many in the international community believe these territories should be handed over to the Palestinians in order for them to establish their own state.

During Benjamin Netanyahu's years, construction in the territories has intensified. Not only the Palestinians are concerned. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, members of her government and many in the international community believe Israel is creating facts on the ground that will make a Palestinian state impossible.

In Israel, reports of hiccups in the relationship were brushed away as an issue of internal politics - Merkel dealing with opposition from within. "Israel is trying not to understand the signals and make them into a sign of anti-Semitism," believes Zimmerman.

Recently, Germany has abstained on resolutions against Israel at the UN. It has also supported European economic measures against Israeli settlements. But in 2011, Germany voted in favor of a resolution against the settlements at the United Nations, a clear signal the support is not automatic.

These are warning signals - not subtle hints - Germany is sending to Israel, observers say, adding that there are many steps the European country can take that will be painful to Israel - decrease military support, ask for higher pay for the German submarines and other similar steps.

For now, relations between the countries remain strong. In 2014, Merkel received Israel's highest civilian award for her "unwavering commitment" to Israel. However, as Israel finds itself more isolated internationally and the peace process with the Palestinians is at a dead end, support may dwindle.

The author is a writer with the Xinhua News Agency. The article first appeared on Xinhua. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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