Monday, 28 May 2012

What should Germany's President Say in Israel?

Germany’s newly elected President, Joachim Gauck, is off on a four-day state-visit to Israel today. At a time when German public opinion of Israel is increasingly negative, the purpose of Gauck’s visit is to “demonstrate German solidarity and support for the Jewish State.”

I expect that Angela Merkel will have briefed Gauck and given him her view about Netanyahu, who is considered by world politicians to be a liar. I imagine that the German Embassy in Tel Aviv will have similarly painted a bleak picture of the deterioration of Israel into a country run by extremists. If he will meet representatives of German NGOs, they may well tell him of the harsh and hopeless reality of life for Palestinians under Israeli rule.

Gauck’s Israeli hosts, however, will doubtlessly remind him of Germany’s special responsibility to support Israel because of the Holocaust. They will warn about increased anti-Semitism in Europe. Netanyahu will paint Iran as a threat comparable to Hitler and his hosts may also try to engage him in the debate over Günter Grass’ recent “poetical” attack.

Will Gauck be allowed to tell his Israeli hosts what most Germans think of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank? Will he tell the Israeli people that Germany supports Israel’s right to exist but cannot and will not support Israel’s hold on the Occupied territories? Will Gauck tell Israel that unless Israel gets out of these Territories, Europe including Germany, will cease supporting Israel altogether?

He should, but he probably won’t. 


  1. I am afraid you are totally right with your comments and judgement. Moreover Europe and especially Germany`s foremost interest is the Greek crisis and football or ESC in BAKU. Israel is not in the focus of the broader public.
    Gauck has to pay a visit as first
    citoyen of the state and that is okay.

  2. Hagai Goren wrote:

    It seems to me that Germany (and Israel) can save the expected costs of this trip of Gauck to Tel Aviv. You may brief them on the expectd declerations and responses.

  3. Über den Besuch von Bundespräsident Gauck in Israel brauchen wir uns keine Sorgen zu machen. Er ist mutig genug, auch für die israelische Regierung unangenehme Themen anzusprechen. Das ist die Aufgabe von Freunden, und seine moralische Integrität und Festigkeit dürften inzwischen auch im Nahen Osten bekannt sein. Das Besuchsprogramm zeigt im übrigen, dass der Grundsatz "audiatur et altera pars" nicht zu kurz kommt.

  4. Yes, Gauck can dare to say critical remarks about the occupation politics of the current Israel goverment. Friendship ( in relationships and politics) is both: to be critical and positiv supportive.
    Germans have to learn more to separate historical guilt and present destructive politics of Israels' goverment.

    It would be a relief if Gauck would break this German taboo never say officialy anything critical about Israel. Sticking to this taboo means also to support the current status and agree with the humiliation of the Palestine population.

  5. Will he tell the Israelis?

    He won't - and he shouldn't.

  6. Well, the media reported that he criticized the settlement policy in his private talks with Netanyahu.
    Criticizing the settlement policy is a ritual for German politicians. It has no consequences whatsoever and everyone knows that. Israel knows that Germany will keep supporting it no matter what.

    No matter what happens to the palestinians.

    Why? Because Israel is the most progressive and innovative country in the region. Because German-Israeli scientific, economic, and military cooperation in benefits Germany more than German-Palestinian cooperation would. Because Israel is a market for the German arms industry. Because influential pro-Israeli organizations in the US are watching closely, and Germany wants to have them on their side.

    Oh, did I forget the eternal moral ethical holy German responsibility towards Israel? Oops.