When I was researching the submarine affair (aka Case 3000), I reached a senior German source. There’s a contradiction in your behavior that I don’t understand, I told him. On the one hand, from 2009 to 2010 you made many demands on Israel as a condition for implementing the option of purchasing a sixth submarine (mainly, Germany demanded a renewal of negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and asked then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to transfer to the PA the taxes Israel collects for it).
On the other hand, even when these conditions were not met, you agreed to sell the sub. And a few years later, I added, when the diplomatic situation between Israel and the Palestinians was far worse – you agreed unconditionally to sell submarines Nos. 7, 8 and 9.
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Well, replied the German, at a certain point we had a discussion with Chancellor Angela Merkel. She supported all our demands, but asked: And if Israel doesn’t meet your conditions, won’t we still sell it the submarines that it claims are necessary for its national security? We realized that there was no point in continuing to play this game. In any case, the bottom line is that she will always decide in favor of what is presented as Israel’s supreme interests.
For decades various experts had been warning: Okay, Chancellor Helmut Kohl was a real friend of Israel, but there are deep currents, and the young people no longer feel obligated. Wait and see what happens after him. In the case of Merkel that even served as Netanyahu’s justification for his surprising haste to sign, already in early 2016, a memorandum for the purchase of three additional submarines.
Merkel is getting weaker, said Netanyahu’s people, explaining his decision after the fact. Who knows what the chancellor who follows her will decide. Well, Merkel survived for five-and-a-half years after that memo, but I doubt whether the next chancellor – whoever it is – will make decisions on these issues that differ significantly from those of Merkel.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, for example, was not an outstanding friend of the Israeli government, and yet when it came to the important decisions he stood alongside the Jewish state in the end – for example, when shortly before the end of his tenure he approved the sale of the fifth submarine to Israel. Merkel had every reason to give Netanyahu the cold shoulder after one of their meetings, when Netanyahu told her he was launching a diplomatic initiative in which Germany would play a key role.
The chancellor was supposed to renew the negotiations with the Palestinians, and got Russian President Vladimir Putin involved. But time passed, and it turned out that the initiative died shortly after the meeting with Netanyahu, if it ever existed. Merkel had difficulty forgiving, but she preserved the premier’s dignity. Apparently as far as she’s concerned, it’s Israel’s dignity.
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I’m not an expert in German politics, but anyone who is dreaming of European pressure being brought to bear on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett when it comes to the Palestinian arena is invited to fantasize about the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in the United States.
Bennett must meet with Abbas, not because of Merkel or French President Emmanuel Macron. He must meet with him because it’s the correct and smart thing to do. The right likes to dig up Abbas’ Holocaust-denying doctoral thesis and the PA’s payments to the families of terrorists.
These really are stains, but Bennett should realize by now that Israel can only dream of a successor to Abbas, who will fight terror for 17 years, will succeed most of the time in preventing major attacks, will speak against Hamas while Israel is bombing the Gaza Strip, and will declare that he is waiving his right to return to his home in Safed. A refusal to meet Abbas is like a refusal to meet any Palestinian leadership whatsoever.
The greatest absurdity, which we can reasonably assume is what is preventing Bennett from meeting with Abbas, is politics: the fear of another confrontation with his base, which is very small in any case. But every public opinion survey that has ever been conducted proves that even the right thinks that it’s necessary to talk to the leaders of the enemy. Perhaps not to give in, not to withdraw, but whenever Netanyahu met with Abbas, he only went up, not down, in the polls.