This was not just another run-of-the-mill speech by a politician, but a major address of historic and heart-warming proportions.
Speaking to the Bundestag on October 11, four days after a large Hamas force of terrorists from the Gaza Strip ruthlessly attacked towns, kibbutzim and a music festival in southern Israel, murdering some 1,300 Israelis and foreigners in a matter of hours, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz struck exactly the right tone.
“At this moment, there is only one place for Germany, at Israel’s side,” he declared. “Our own history, our responsibility arising from the Holocaust, makes it a perpetual task for us to stand up for the security of the State of Israel.”
With these succinct and uplifting words, Scholz frankly acknowledged Germany’s debt to itself and the Jewish people, nearly 80 years after Allied armies crushed Adolf Hitler’s evil fascist regime.
During the 12-year Nazi interregnum, Germany not only ostracized, persecuted and killed its Jewish citizens, but conceived and implemented a diabolical plan for the mass murder of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Germany, a nation renowned for its profoundly rich cultural and intellectual heritage, thus removed itself from the family of civilized nations.
With Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender, Germany gradually resurrected its system of democratic norms, reestablished itself in the Western alliance, encouraged German Jews to return to their homes, agreed to the payment of reparations to Holocaust survivors, and forged diplomatic relations with Israel.
Israel’s special relationship with Germany has since expanded and deepened to a remarkable degree, despite occasional squabbles and disagreements. Only the United States has more wide-ranging relations with Israel than Germany.
Two months ago, in a tangible sign of Israel’s enduring alliance with Germany, Israel announced that it will purchase the Arrow 3 missile defence system for $3.5 billion, in what will be Israel’s largest single arms deal.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed it as a watershed in Israel’s ties with Germany. “Seventy five years ago, the Jewish people were crushed to ashes by Nazi Germany,” he said. “Seventy five years later, the Jewish state gives Germany, another Germany, tools to defend itself. What a historic turning point.”
Scholz, in delivering his speech to German lawmakers within this broad context and within the realm of recent events, told them he had spoken to Netanyahu to ascertain whether Germany can be of assistance to Israel in its hour of duress.
He and Netanyahu spoke at a gut-wrenching moment, when Israel is seriously contemplating the possibility of an invasion of Gaza and when Israelis are still deep in shock and mourning over the cold-blooded murder of so many men, women and children in a murderous Hamas rampage during which babies were butchered, women were raped, men were gunned down, and buildings were torched.
These atrocities, the worst since the dark days of the Holocaust, summon up harsh memories of the Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi mobile killing squads that slaughtered some one million Jews in the Baltic states and the Soviet Union from the summer of 1941 onwards.
Scholz informed Netanyahu that his government will impose a formal ban on activity by or in support of Hamas, which is already listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States and Canada.
And he said there will be “zero tolerance” of antisemitism in Germany.
As well, he noted he had suspended development aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, though Germany’s humanitarian assistance to them will remain in place.
And he condemned Iran’s malevolent role in the Middle East, correctly saying that Hamas could not have launched its coordinated and unprecedented attacks against Israel without its financial and logistical backing.
In a further development, the German Ministry of Defence has agreed to allow Israeli forces to use two of the five Heron TP combat drones stationed in Israel and leased by Germany to train drone operators.
As this news emerged, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius disclosed that he is favorably considering an Israeli request for naval ammunition.
As Netanyahu said, Israel and Germany have come a long way in the past seven decades. Scholz’s speech was a resounding reminder that Germany’s friendship with Israel is more than merely skin-deep.