Analysis: When Barak went to Berlin (JERUSALEM POST) By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 03/23/12)
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BERLIN - German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere´s statements
earlier this week during his meeting with his Israeli counterpart
Ehud Barak mean, on the surface, opposition to a preemptive strike
against Iran´s nuclear facilities. Nonetheless, Barak may have
secured more military cooperation from Germany than was voiced in de
Maiziere´s anti-strike comments.
The signing ceremony with Barak for the contract to purchase a sixth
Super Dolphin submarine for Israel´s navy took place at the country´s
embassy and represents the crowning achievement of German-Israeli
military cooperation. The advanced Dolphin possesses a second-strike
nuclear weapons capability.
Philipp Missfelder, the Christian Union Democratic deputy and foreign
spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel´s party in the Bundestag, told
The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, "We stand strongly on the side of
Israel. The military cooperation shows that Israel has a special
"We cannot merely make nice speeches if we do not cooperate with
Israel militarily. If Israel is in danger, Germany should stand by
its side. It is right to advocate that the military option remain. I
support defensive military supplies to Israel," he continued.
In sharp contrast to de Maiziere´s remarks, a Tuesday article in the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, also known as FAZ, lends additional
evidence that Barak has convinced the Germans to fulfill aspects of
their pledge to champion Israel´s security. The FAZ piece noted that
the Merkel administration will "immediately" support Israel and
provide rocket-defense systems and specialized personnel if requested
by Israel in order to bolster its defenses during a conflict with
Former Israeli ambassador to Germany Shimon Stein, who served from
2001 to 2007, told the Post on the telephone that the "FAZ article is
good news. Netanyahu´s office will be pleased to read it."
Stein, who is widely considered to be one of the top Israeli
ambassadors in Germany, added that he considers it a mistake that
Germany has not publicly retained the military option against Iran.
In connection with the military possibility, "Israel and the US
differ not on substance but on timing.
Germany finds itself in opposition to the US, not just Israel," he
While de Maiziere said at a joint meeting on Tuesday in Berlin
that "a military escalation would bring i ncalculable risks for
Israel and the region, to the detriment of Israel," the meetings
among German ministries spoke a somewhat different language.
The FAZ noted that the German defense ministry, foreign ministry and
chancellor´s office met to determine the meaning of Chancellor
Merkel´s statement about Israel´s security interests being integral
to German interests. According to the newspaper, the German
government will "immediately" show support for Israel´s defense
Concretely, the Merkel administration will supply Israel with Patriot
rocket systems, mobile defense devices and technical personnel. The
article also said that Germany´s government would not expect
additional military requests from Israel.
The article, titled "Möllemann´s inheritors: The FDP, the chancellor,
and the conflict with Iran" and penned by Majid Sattar, outlined
splits in the governing coalition in Germany among the Christian
Democrats/Christian Social Union party and the FDP (Free Democratic
According to the piece, a unnamed FDP deputy said Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu´s statements about military strikes against the
Islamic Republic are "irresponsible." Though the FDP has a
responsibility toward the Jewish state, wrote Sattar, the party has
to play the role of the mediator with the Muslim world.
Though the statements from Westerwelle and de Maiziere could be
interpreted as undermining the US, British, Dutch and Israeli
positions, namely that the military option has to remain on the
table, there are signs that Chancellor Angela Merkel might stick to
her pro-Israel position.
She told the Knesset in 2008 that "we would never abandon Israel"
and "consequently, in the hour of truth, these cannot remain empty
words." She was the only European leader to unconditionally support
Operation Cast Lead in 2008, though, in contrast to US President
Barack Obama, she has not publicly issued a statement about the
military option vis-a-vis Iran.
Merkel plays her military cards close to the vest. It is hard to
assess if, when the moment of truth arrives, she will fulfill her
promise to support and defend Israel. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem
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