German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union last week passed a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement for its anti-Zionist activities, calling them antisemitic. The move was both a much welcome expression of support for Israel and a further repudiation of Germany’s dark past.
“Who today under the flag of the BDS movement calls to boycott Israeli goods and services speaks the same language in which people were called to not buy from Jews. That is nothing other than coarse antisemitism,” the CDU said.
The CDU statement of friendship and support for Israel was accompanied by an expression of hope for a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but also spared no words in its characterization of BDS as today’s heirs to Nazism. The party statement compared BDS to Hitler’s National Socialists, who began preparing the ground for the Holocaust by boycotting German-Jewish businesses during the 1930s. BDS camouflages its antisemitism behind anti-Zionism, the “new clothes of the 21st century,” the party said.
“The German CDU declares with this motion its disapproval and rejection of every form of BDS activity and condemns these activities as antisemitic,” the statement said, pledging: “The CDU will decisively oppose every hostile action that Israel faces.”
The recent CDU party convention nominated Merkel to run for a fourth term as its candidate in next year’s federal election. The CDU’s resolution was the first motion by a national German party to reject BDS as antisemitic.
In addition to statements of support for Israel, the German government has been taking concrete actions against the growing threat of terrorism. Last month German police carried out raids at some 200 mosques, apartments and offices in 60 cities and outlawed the “True Religion” group for serving as a recruiter for Islamic State.
Beyond serving as Israel’s closest diplomatic ally in Europe in recent years, Germany has proven to be a reliable defense partner, as the recent submarine scandal has shown.
While many questions still surround the decision-making process that led to Israel’s procurement of three new submarines – and particularly the role that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorney David Shimron played in the sale – the fact that Merkel’s government agreed to give Israel a significant subsidy should not be taken for granted. While the subsidy makes economic sense for Germany and ensures that its shipyard continues to work, it is also a big break for Israel, whose submarines are the IDF’s most expensive military platform.
Israel’s first two Dolphin-class submarines arrived free of charge following the First Gulf War and subsequent reports that Iraqi chemical warheads, which were never fired, were possibly developed with the help of German companies. The third submarine was ordered a year later, and the cost was split by Germany and Israel.
The next two were ordered in 2006 after the Second Lebanon War and the sixth a few years later. Again Israel got a significant reduction in the price. The new three, ordered a few months ago, were also obtained at a discounted price.
One of the reasons behind Netanyahu’s decision to order the three latest submarines now even though they will only begin to arrive in more than a decade is because of Merkel. As long as she is chancellor of Germany, he knows that Berlin will have Israel’s back.
This might be the case with a new and different German leader, but it also might be different. Merkel and her generation of German politicians still feel a moral commitment to Israel’s safety and security. A new and younger German leader might feel differently.
But Berlin’s support for Israel does not come in the form of a blank check, for Merkel’s government is strongly opposed to what it terms Israel’s settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Der Spiegel reported in the past that Merkel was so exasperated by Netanyahu’s settlement policy that she had threatened to cancel the deal to partially subsidize the Israel Navy’s purchase of new reportedly nuclear-armed submarines.
In a speech to the Knesset in 2008, Merkel said that Israel’s security is part of Germany’s “raison d’état.” That will not be the case forever and Israel needs to work to ensure that future leaders of Germany feel the same.