Steven Horowitz
Steven Horowitz

Germany’s Obsolete Policies

Germany’s Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, came to Israel without even a hint as to what is happening in either his own backyard or the broader Middle East. Talk about a government completely out of touch, this grand alliance between the German left and the German right is just such a government. Vladimir Putin is about to play Angela Merkel for a complete fool (for the second time) with an Assad-Iranian offensive against the moderate Free Syrian Army and the jihadist al-Qaeda in Syria’s Idlib Province. This military action will send at least a half-a-million refugees into Turkey and then on to Europe. Putin’s timing couldn’t be more perfect, with the German election slated for this September.

Putin is going to play the Syrian refugee card because Merkel and the American establishment — a reluctant President Trump having been persuaded by the leverage of his own Security Council and the combined power of Germany, the Pentagon and the CIA — have once again deemed Russia to be enemy number one. Originally Trump had called NATO obsolete and assumed a decidedly pro-Russian posture. Then the mercurial US president changed his mind in the face of unparalleled pressure from the US foreign policy elite.

So, instead of German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel coming to Israel to reassure Jerusalem — that in this perilous time of Iranian regional expansion, potential superpower confrontation, and the vast dysfunction of the entire Middle East nation-state system — Gabriel decides instead to meet with far-left Meretz supporters (of all people) in a charade of knee-jerk far-left atavism.

Is the Merkel government so removed from reality that it fails to understand that Russia is in Syria because of NATO and German policy. NATO became obsolete precisely at the moment that Germany became reunited. Syria has now become a global confrontation between Russia and the West and the only way to untangle the disaster is a Grand Bargain over the obsolescense of NATO. Of course, this can only be accomplished in conjunction with a non-hegemonic, anti-sphere-of-influence for Russia in all of Eastern Europe. Until a new European security architecture can be decided, Syria and the greater Middle East will remain a Russian bargaining chip, and therefore, the human catastrophe that it has become.

Then there is the question of Germany’s Israel policy. As the fifty year anniversary of the Six-Day War arrives, Germany must ask itself where it stands. Who does Berlin believe was the ultimate aggressor in 1967, and for that matter, 1948? And how deep and how sustaining is the German commitment to Israel’s security? Germany’s commercial relationship with Iran has now become unconscionable in the face of Iranian missile threats and its pledge to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth”. Also, it appears that Angela Merkel has a very shallow understanding of the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA. The Merkel government is a signatory to this extremely flawed agreement. At best, the agreement might prevent an Iranian nuclear breakout for another decade, but then it institutionalizes a robust Iranian nuclear program with a potential breakout time of mere weeks, perhaps less than a month. This makes the JCPOA (at best) a very shaky interim deal in search of a final, long-term solution.

Does Berlin buy into the Iranian narrative that it is not interested in developing nuclear weapons? Or, for that matter, does Berlin buy into the PLO’s narrative that Israel must NOT control the Jordan River Valley for the Merkel-supported two-state solution to reach fruition? In other words, does Berlin actually believe that Israeli security can be sustainable with a nine-mile wide barrier at a future border with an aggressive Palestinian state whose neighbor is a precarious Jordanian Kingdom with a large Palestinian majority population? All the while, Iranian troops would remain poised on Jordan’s and Israel’s borders in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Is Germany that far removed from reality?

If not, than the German foreign minister should have said as much at a news conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Germany needs to spell out its policies, loudly and clearly. Does Berlin support Netanyahu’s two demands for permanent Israeli security control of the Jordan River Valley and recognition of Israel as a state of the Jewish People? Gabriel’s spurious meeting with the Israeli far-left is both an insult and a joke. With elections looming, Merkel should have fired Gabriel the minute he chose to speak with far-leftists — who are hardly even politically represented in the Israeli Knesset. Maybe if the German government would clarify that it stood firmly behind the Israeli prime minister’s two key demands, then German-Israeli relations could once again remain on an even keel.

Furthermore, Germany must decide, first and foremost, on an updated policy with regard to the EU. Since 2008, Europe has stumbled badly in the face of the ongoing world crisis of economic globalization. Berlin’s austere debt policy with regard to its neighbors has placed it with the perception of pursuing economic domination. The dirty little secret of European populism is the German export surplus to the EU. This surplus feeds resentment and is therefore unsustainable.
Germany needs to make the case for greater European economic federalism. If such a federal approach is unobtainable (the most likely scenario), the problem of anti-EU, anti-NATO populism will soon be decided at the ballot box. Sometime in the next five years and somewhere among the larger powers of Europe, if a strong case for EU reform does not become ascendant, then such a negative outcome is a certainty. Obviously, the solution to European security must have a negotiated solution. It must not be done in an ad hoc manner as with Le Pen or her cohorts. Putin might wish for such an outcome, but such is not the case in Poland, Eastern Europe, the Baltics, Scandinavia and, of course, Germany itself.

If NATO is obsolete, a Russian sphere-of-influence is certainly NOT the answer. The economic future of Europe has become as fragile as capitalism itself. But unlike the 1930’s, economic crisis must not be allowed to lead to a vacuum. From a Russian perspective, NATO is a fragile and unbalanced military alliance, but equally fragile and unbalanced would be an Eastern Europe under the shadow of a powerful and nuclear-armed Russia. Europe needs the security unity inclusive of Russia. Neither NATO expansion eastward or a return to a pre-WWII security vacuum in Eastern Europe fits the description of a balanced security system for Europe. A lower level of conventional armaments across the continent holds the key to a stable future for all.

Germany policy in the 21st century must understand and respect all these grievances. Germany (of all countries) should know better. Back in 1967, I met countless Germans who understood that the Arabs were serious about their expressed desire to “drive the Jews into the sea”. This was before the so-called “occupied territories” with its “illegal Jewish settlements” in the historic lands of “ancient Arab Palestine” (sic). Back then, in the very shadow of the Holocaust, most Germans prayed for an Israeli victory. Because, back then, most Europeans (and certainly nearly all Germans} understood that the Palestinians and the Arab world at large had a second genocide on their minds with regard to the Jewish people and its one and only state, Israel.

Now, fifty years later, the whole world is witness to the capacity of Arab dictators and fellow Muslims (Shiites vs. Sunnis) to annihilate their own people. Yet, Germany stands in line with the rest of Europe to sign lucrative trade deals with Iran. All the while, Iran appears hell-bent on surrounding Israel and Jordan with missiles and troops. Tehran also maintains the criminal Assad regime as its bridge to Lebanon, as it develops long-range mobile platforms to initiate the vehicles for weapons of mass destruction.

This lax German policy toward Iran is the ultimate affront to all Jewish people, everywhere. Merkel had the opportunity to tell Obama that the JCPOA was deeply flawed and that he needed to be stronger with Iran. But Merkel succumbed to a flawed US-North Korean type model of appeasement toward Tehran. Berlin might fool itself to believe that its policies of Iranian normalization will somehow work in the face of the flawed JCPOA. Equally, Berlin might falsely believe that participation in NATO expansion eastward, in the aftermath of its reunification, will somehow create European stability. Of course, this is wrong.

Finally, Germany’s generalized forgetfulness with regard to who was the aggressor in the Arab-Israeli wars, and what that means for Israel’s crucial security needs, has turned the Merkel chancellorship into a mockery of truthfulness and of the basic morality that it professes.

In order to solve the security problem of Europe will require a far-reaching German, French, Polish and Russian compromise on the future structure of the continent’s military domain. Only then can a Russian compromise on Syria (Geneva 2012) be achievable. In other words, it is up to the German leadership to understand: Given the xenophobic populist political climate across Europe, the Russian-driven refugee crisis from Syria, an EU economy and monetary union that appears unworkable without even greater central control, and an Iranian power struggle throughout the Middle East (with a strong potential for an eventual nuclear breakout), that Berlin’s policy of a Palestine state (first, and above all else) is dangerously obsolete. In fact, it is the fantasy of the anti-Zionist far-left.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).