Monitoring Report June 2017
2 Presidents visit Israel – The world reveals its two faces
Visit by the Germany President
Thanks to the previous visit of his political party colleague and successor to the office of Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel - which went badly out of control - Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier faced a delicate situation during his first state visit to Israel since taking office. Mr. Steinmeier landed at Ben Gurion Airport in the beginning of May. On the one hand, the German side wanted to calm the waves while at the same time holding their line and making it clear to the Israelis that they would not march to Netanyahu’s drum. That’s how they see it in Berlin.
For that reason, thank God, there were no further provocations. There were no additional meetings with „Breaking the Silence“ and „B’Tselem“. However, in his speech to students at the Hebrew University and the ceremony of laying a wreath at Jasser Arafat’s grave, Steinmeier built two clearly opposing poles into his program. The Germans worked to restore balance. The greatest goal seemed to be to avoid a further debacle – using the policy of small pin pricks as the tool of choice in order to still not appear to be giving in too much.
In a common Press Conference both Steinmeier and Netanyahu diplomatically reiterated that the unshakeable German-Israeli friendship continues. Steinmeier explains:
„This foundation is so broad, that I believe it can withstand turbulences like those of the last 14 days. The unique relationship of our two countries is too important to be measured against the question of who is or should be considered to be a legitimate conversation partner.
Yes, the relationship between the two countries will certainly survive a German, SPD-driven foreign policy. But the fact that the top German diplomat had to break so many dishes unnecessarily is another story. The tectonic shifts taking place at the moment in the political realm have put so much pressure on the relationship that some commentators are talking about the necessity of a „Reset“ of the bilateral relationships!
Besides the diplomatic confirmation and mutual assurances of their partnership and friendship, Netanyahu made it clear in the same press conference that Israel has only its own army - „whose moral standards far exceed those of any other army in the world“ - to thank for its existence after the Holocaust. As subtle and diplomatic as his message was formulated, it could not have been more clear: Israel will not accept any discrediting, demonization and de-legitimization of the Israel Defense Forces. Steinmeier did not change the expression on his face, took it quietly and made no mention of it at all in his closing remarks after Netanyahu had finished speaking.
Germany, the moral compass of the West?
On the other hand, without mentioning Netanyahu by name, Steinmeier’s criticism was no less clear in his speech at the Hebrew University. Though Netanyahu’s content made the better impression during the press conference, Steinmeier‘s speech at the University presented a golden opportunity for him take his shots – an opportunity he did not pass up. In the highlight of his comments regarding the Gabriel debacle Steinmeiers Botschaft – comments coordinated with big-name Israeli government critics like David Grossmann and Amos Oz – Steinmeier said: „One thing is clear to me: anyone who rejects the plurality of society and denies others their legitimate place, isolates himself. Democracy means rule by the people. But the people are a plurality. The people have many voices – many voices are the oxygen of democracy! For that reason, I find that the person who raises his voice, who criticizes while at the same time respecting the voice of others does not betray the people but protects it. So in my eyes, civil organizations which are part of a society’s debate are due our respect as democrats.”
In his speech, Steinmeier strongly criticized „Censorship“, urged for dealing with attacks on democracy in an honest fashion and accused Netanyahu of isolating himself by isolating others – referring to Breaking the Silence. By doing so, he anonymously praised Breaking the Silence as being protectors of the people and thus indirectly, as a "democrat", paid them his respect.
Steinmeier thus confirmed the German position that Gabriel had previously represented – a feeling of moral superiority of the newfound German humanistic "man is basically good" attitude in dealing with Israel. Eldad Beck said it like this: „During a recent visit to Israel, he (Gabriel) demonstrated Berlin's desire to become the moral compass of the West.“ But Berlin's raised moral finger is totally out of place here - the compass is wrong. There is absolutely no question that Israel is a pluralistic society accepted by Netanyahu and his government. The thought would never enter anyone's mind in Israel to refute that fact. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find a more heterogeneous and pluralistic society anywhere else.
The core of the problem surrounding "Breaking the Silence" and "B'tselem" is simply that the social significance of these two groups and the number of people they actually represent is a diminishingly small minority. They represent an extremist group on the fringe of Israeli society which would have no social legitimacy or relevance were it not for the influx of European tax money and the artificial importance proffered upon them by the attention paid by foreign governments, like Germany, and the media in the West – because they support their political goals. That is the only reason that, in Steinmeier's words, these organizations are "part of a society’s debate".
In fact, these two organizations do not reflect "the people". To use Gabriel's terminology, they are "the Pack" – they represent a position apart from and opposed to the democratically legitimized, social consensus of the Israeli society. Of course they have the right to represent their point of view, but it is rude for another government (in this case Germany) to legitimize them, provide them with finances and treat them as if they were the voice of the people, the voice of democracy – that is political theater, a bad movie! That is not a natural "attack on democracy" that is a purposeful undermining of democracy!
Remembering the Holocaust and honoring sponsors of terror
Steinmeier also visited the grave of Jassar Arafat, the terrorist leader of the PLO, and laid a wreath at his grave in Ramallah on May 9th, 2017. According to official sources, this was the first time that a German President honored the former PLO-Chief in this way. Since 1964, Arafat was responsible for many terror attacks against Israelis and Israeli facilities, among them the Intifada and the hundreds of resulting deaths. In 1972, Arafat gave his blessing for the attacks at the Munich Olympics his blessing. In 1994, together with Jitzhak Rabin and Schimon Peres, he received the Noble Peace Prize.
The parallels of laying the wreath as part of the German President's official program cast a bad light and leaves a bitter aftertaste. Had he laid a wreath on the Israeli side for the 6 Million Jews murdered by the Nazis – that would have been totally justified. But for him to honor a murderer of Jews and a terrorist with the same gesture on the Palestinian side – regardless of the Nobel Prize – makes it difficult to find words to describe such a monstrously tasteless, insensitive and morally inept attempt to level the playing field. Clemens Wergin, Washington Correspondent for "Der Welt" posted the fitting tweet:
"First, the German President visits Yad Vashem, and then he lays a wreath at the grave of a murderer of Jews. That can only be described as moral equidistance".
Presidential visit par Excellence
In comparison, Donald J. Trump's visit to Israel – a man who has been accused of being too unpresidential – was picture perfect. Trump found a style of communication through actions and gestures that expressed far more than words could have ever spoken. He had already spoken on all the important issues during his stay in Riad in his speech at the Arabic-Islamic-American Summit – in essence a return to pre-Obama US foreign policy. Old allies would again be supported by the USA, the common enemy and regional aggressor number 1 is Iran. Trump called the participating heads of government in no uncertain terms to actively fight terror and decisively oppose Islamic hatred. A concrete result of his speech is the vehement demand of Sunnite nations (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, etc.) to the Emirate of Qatar to distance itself from Iran and to stop all financial support of terror.
In Israel, Trump brought with him warm and friendly words. He carefully avoided any comments on a two-state solution, settlements or other hot topics. But with his one visit to the Wailing Wall he destroyed all the claims of the UNESCO resolutions that falsely declare that there is no historical relationship between the Jewish people or Judaism and Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall and that they are strictly Islamic sites. He appeared at the Wailing Wall wearing a Jewish Kippa in the company of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich. No Imam or Christian Pastor was at his side, but a Rabbi – a silent but strong statement of his recognition of the Jewish character of the location. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
During his visit to Israel, the white house published a background screen on its Live Website which showed while waiting for the press conference with Trump and Netanyahu to begin. The text was: "President Trump gives remarks with Prime Minister Netanyahu" and in the line below, "Jerusalem, Israel". Here too, a short, silent, strong symbolic act. Just a few months previous, Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama caused a furor by having the word "Israel" crossed out of an already published press statement describing the location as "Jerusalem, Israel" in order to clearly state that his Administration did not recognize Jerusalem as being part of Israel. Under Trump, just the contrary has been clearly stated.
In addition, Trump's visit fell exactly on the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem Day in memory and in celebration of the liberation of Jerusalem in 1967 – a highly symbolic date! Many expected him during his visit to expressly acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to announce that he would be moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. But that didn't happen. Even worse, on June 1st, 2017, going against a campaign promise for the first time in his presidency, he signed a "presidential waiver" a Memorandum, which delays moving the Embassy for half a year. Every President before him has signed this waiver every six months, thus hindering the execution of the "Jerusalem Embassy Act" passed by the US Congress in 1995 - which decrees that the US Embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In a Press release on the subject, he attempted to make it clear that his position on moving the Embassy had not changed. It is not a question of if but of when it will happen.
This being said to show that even under Trump the USA is not in complete agreement with Israel. But even so, Trump's visit to Israel was unequaled in its respectful, honoring, subtle and diplomatically skillful arrangement. It looks like German politicians still have a lot to learn. Trumps visit breathed respect and acknowledgment of the oldest and most blessed culture in the world and Israel's accomplishments. The German state visits on the other hand, either more subtly (Steinmeier) or crudely (Gabriel), reeked of the arrogance and moral erosion of western humanistic thought
It is time for the German megalomania to come back down to earth. A good beginning would be the long-overdue broadcast of the excellent Documentary „Auserwählt und ausgegrenzt – Der Hass auf Juden in Europa“ which has been held back for political reasons. The "Bild" Magazine showed the documentary online for a 24 hour period on June 13th, 2017. The unfiltered truth - which quickly takes one back to the basic facts - seems to be too dangerous to broadcast for the Directors of the WDR and ARTE TV-Networks. They realized too late how politically explosive the material is. The documentary looks at current problems and exposes wrong attitudes and misguided actions on the part of German and European politicians with merciless honesty.
This documentary is an urgently needed fire extinguisher for the German and European megalomania against Israel. All problem areas are uncovered and portrayed with painful honesty. The totally out of control and anti-democratic NGO-Funding and the support of UNWRA as the German and European contribution to the Hamas and PLO Cleptocracy, the perpetualization of the conflict and the increase in great passivity regarding Anti-Semitism has got to stop. We really need to clean up our own house and take a good look at ourselves in the mirror before we dare exalt ourselves above Israel.