Germany’s New Foreign Minister: The First Woman in the Job – and a Strong Supporter of Israel

Green Party co-leader Annalena Baerbock has condemned Hamas’ rocket strikes against Israeli civilians and opposes the BDS movement, adding: ‘In these trying times, we stand with the Israelis’

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Annalena Baerbock, the co-leader of Germany's Green Party, at a press conference in Berlin in July.
Annalena Baerbock, the co-leader of Germany's Green Party, at a press conference in Berlin in July.Credit: Stefanie Loos / Pool / AFP
Konstantin Nowotny

Germany’s incoming foreign minister, the Greens’ Annalena Baerbock, comes from a party with no shortage of far-left voices, but the 40-year-old has made clear she supports Israel’s right to self-defense while opposing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Baerbock, the co-chief of the Green Party, will be the Federal Republic’s youngest foreign minister and the first woman in the job. Unsurprisingly, her campaign before the September 26 election focused on climate policy, with the Greens taking 14.8 percent of the vote and notching up their best result ever.

During Israel’s fighting with Gaza in May, Baerbock condemned Hamas’ rocket strikes against Israeli civilians, declaring: “In these trying times, we stand with the Israelis.” That month she also condemned attacks on synagogues in Germany and the burning of the Israeli flag.

Just like outgoing Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, she is a strong supporter of Israel’s right to self-defense, declaring that “Israel‘s security is a part of Germany’s raison d’état.” In this way she is firmly following outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s template.

Baerbock’s statement was preceded by a debate over a 2018 interview that received heavy coverage during the campaign. Asked whether she supported arms sales to countries that “break international law,” Baerbock replied: “You’re not supposed to deliver submarines that might be modified for crisis areas.”

German industrial group ThyssenKrupp is Israel’s supplier of submarines.

A Green Party spokesperson later added that concerns included Israel’s corruption case regarding its acquisition of submarines, as well as the possibility that they might carry nuclear weapons.

Baerbock also opposes the BDS movement. “As Europeans, Germans and Green, we reject a boycott of Israel,” she said in a talk with the Central Council of Jews in Germany in August, adding: “If you say that you generally boycott Israel, then this stance is antisemitic.”

The party chiefs forming Germany's new government – Christian Lindner, left, Olaf Scholz, Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck – at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday.Credit: Tobias Schwarz / AFP

In 2019, the German government adopted a resolution rejecting the BDS movement, supported by the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats, the Liberal Democrats and parts of the Green Party. The latter three parties formed the new government last week.

The Greens have a long history of involvement in antiwar protests in Germany. Officially, they still support stronger regulations of arms sales to countries that “systematically violate human rights” and see German military intervention as only a “last resort.”

Despite advocating for diplomatic solutions in the Middle East, Germany became one of the largest arms exporters to the region under Merkel, selling weapons to countries including Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

As new foreign minister, Baerbock faces the challenge of balancing the party’s poles on foreign policy. While a peace movement is still rooted in the party’s base, senior officials don’t always condemn Germany military involvement. And they affirm the partnership with Israel.

The 177-page coalition agreement between the three parties touts a “two-state solution in the Middle East on the basis of the 1967 borders.” It makes demands of both sides. “From the Palestinian side, we expect progress on democracy, the rule of law and human rights,” the agreement states. “This also entails the renunciation of any form of violence against Israel. We demand a halt to the construction of settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

In the September election, the Greens won 14.8 percent of the vote, making them the second largest party in the coalition, topping the Liberals. The party will receive five ministries in the new government.

Baerbock, who studied political science as well as public and international law, joined the Greens in 2005, before becoming co-leader in 2018. In her youth, she took part in antiwar and antinuclear-power protests organized by the party. In addition to her environmental politics, she got involved in foreign affairs early on and spoke out on matters of international security.

During the campaign, she admitted mistakes in a plagiarism controversy, but party officials denounced the allegations – as well as those on alleged nontransparency regarding her income – as negative campaigning.

Still, these problems haven’t held back her party or her ascendancy to the Foreign Ministry. “It takes Germany to be a strong actor in Europe and the world,” Baerbock tweeted after the new government was unveiled.

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