Germany Isn't Helping Israel by Ignoring the Occupation

Chancellor Angela Merkel is fearless on many issues, but has proved a coward when it comes to confronting Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany. February 16, 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany. February 16, 2016.Credit: Reuters

Thank you, Chancellor Angela Merkel, for proving once again that the Israeli occupation can always depend on you: Germany will never stand in Israel’s way, nor even raise any obstacles. It will continue to finance and arm it, because Germany is in Israel’s back pocket. “Now might not be the time for big steps,” she said on Tuesday, to the delight of her guest, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The two-state solution was once again postponed indefinitely. Low-cost, second-strike submarines – yes; steps toward peace – no. Not even tiny steps toward democracy: Netanyahu will not accede to the request of the Iron Lady from Berlin to scrap the “transparency bill” that requires NGOs to disclose major funding from abroad. Israel likes to get submarines but does not like to pay for them, not even with a gesture of thanks. Merkel will once again say it’s rain, not spit. Europe might be terrified of her, but she is terrified of Israel.

Germany has a heavy historical debt to the Jewish people. It also has a heavy, indirect debt to the Palestinian people, on the ruins of whose land Israel was built following the Holocaust. When Merkel absolves Netanyahu of immediate responsibility to end the occupation, she shirks her obligation to Israel. When she tells the Palestinians they must continue to live under Israeli tyranny, she shirks her responsibility to the Palestinians.

Merkel has proved herself to be a stateswoman of great stature. She welcomed the waves of refugees to Europe last summer with courageous, humane decisions. She is Europe’s moral force. But when it comes to Israel, her stature diminishes. Her comment that this is not the time for big steps was almost an echo of another small statesman, opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union).

When does the chancellor think the time will come? In a year? In 50 years? And what does she think will change to make “big steps” possible? Will Israel one day voluntarily give up the occupation of its own free will? Will the Palestinians give up their rights? Their struggle? And how can the Palestinians be asked to continue living under the occupation?

Meanwhile, Israel just continues to destroy more and more Palestinian homes, and build more and more Jewish homes in the territories. Israel is becoming ever more nationalistic and right-wing, and the Palestinians hate them more – and the chancellor proposes that we wait. It would be nice if she would at least tell the truth: Israel has no intention of ending the occupation. Palestinians, forget about a state. Israel is too strong, the settlers too numerous and the world too indifferent. You’ve been left to your fate.

But Merkel evades and obscures the truth. She needs more time – but the third-generation Palestinian living under occupation has no more time. He has only one life cycle to live. For 50 years now, he has been told this is not the right time to liberate him.

Those saying this are considered Israel’s friends, but they are its greatest enemies. They are the ones who allow the status quo to persist. They allow Israel to be as reckless as it pleases, and encourage the Palestinians to act violently – because they have no other way.

This is what is called being a friend to Israel, but this is the new anti-Semitism. Granting carte blanche to the Jewish state to thumb its nose at international law and justice, backing it up, financing and arming it. And at the same time, it takes part in trampling the rights of a people no less Semitic, the Palestinians – that is also a kind of anti-Semitism.

The new anti-Semitism allows Israel to go downhill on the road it has chosen and doesn’t attempt to stop it. The new anti-Semitism ignores the distress of the Palestinians, who have no other time than the present to be freed of their bonds. It does not understand that they do not deserve to live another 50 years under Israel; it is not recognizing that they deserve that Europe – first and foremost Germany – should act on their behalf, precisely because of the haunting past.

One must have expected Angela Merkel to understand this.