Merkel Recognizes Israel’s Capital – But Opposes Military Steps against Iran

Some unusual aspects stand out in the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s four-day official visit to Israel starting Sunday, March 16. One is her arrival with seven of her top ministers, including foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and defense minister Franz Josef Jung. Both will hold bilateral talks with their Israeli counterparts.
Three items of business bring the German chancellor to Israel:
One: To honor Israel on the 60th anniversary of its founding as a state. She will be the first German chancellor to address the Knesset on Tuesday. Ahead of the event, she said: “Those who keep the Nazi-era history in mind know that the stable and friendly relations of today are one of the miracles of history.”
Chancellor Merkel will not hold talks with Palestinian officials on this visit. Before setting out, she spoke on the telephone to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas to explain this was not a normal working visit but of special significance to German-Israel bilateral relations.
Two: To launch the German-Israeli strategic cooperation forum with a joint cabinet-level meeting in Jerusalem. The cabinet-level consultations will be held in the German and Israeli capitals in turn once a year. The chancellor’s initiative equals de facto recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
They will be the first Germany is holding regularly outside Europe. Until now, these bilateral cabinet meetings took place only with France, Italy, Spain, Poland and Russia.
Three: To put the finishing touches on Berlin’s preparations to hold a Middle East conference in Berlin in June, attended by the four Quartet members (the US, Russia, the European Union and the UN), Israel and the Palestinians as well as Arab and Muslim governments.
The event aspires to follow up the US-sponsored Annapolis peace conference of last year and further elevate the chancellor and Germany as major figures on the world stage. It caps the drive she launched soon after she assumed the chancellorship in 2006 to carve a place for Germany on the Middle East map, to which end Berlin has tightened its political and military ties with the Gulf states and Israel.
The German hand in the region is cautious and discreet.
At the end of the Israel-Hizballah war in 2006, a German contingent was added to the UN peacekeeping force in South Lebanon. Later, the unit was withdrawn, but a German flotilla continues to cruise Lebanese waters.
German agents participate in the Western intelligence and security protecting the anti-Syrian Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora; they are also involved in the security monitoring set-up in the making for cutting down Syrian arms smuggling into Lebanon.
A key component of Berlin’s Middle East disposition is the highly-developed military and intelligence relations with Jerusalem. They include the sale to Israel of German Dolphin assault submarines for its navy.
Before her visit, Merkel stated: “The threats to which the Israeli state is exposed are also threats to us.”
debkafile notes: Sincere as this ringing statement undoubtedly is, there is equally no question that the chancellor has no intention of giving up German’s extensive relations with Iran, Syria and Hizballah. It was only after the third round of UN sanctions had been watered down last week that Berlin agreed to endorse the measure against the Islamic Republic, with which German firms maintain brisk business relations.
Above all, the chancellor is flat against an American or Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear sites or the revival of warfare between Israel and the Lebanese Hizballah. She is convinced that cautious diplomacy can bring Iran round to stopping short of making a nuclear bomb.
Merkel is also confident that Hizballah can be finessed through Tehran into a constructive role in Lebanese governance and abandoning its militancy for politics.
The architect of Berlin’s Middle East orientation is Ernst Uhrlau, director of German’s external intelligence agency, the BND.
debkafile‘s sources report that Uhrlau is thought to be the only important Western intelligence chief who can claim direct ties with Iran’s intelligence chiefs and Hizballah’s security apparatus.
Angela Merkel’s perspective on Israel can be summed up in a word: A genuine commitment to a secure Israel, a willingness to assist in its armament for possible war with Iran and a wish to develop bilateral strategic relations. But she has no intention of giving up Berlin’s strategic ties with Tehran.

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