May 16, 2014
Is Germany fed up with Israel? Berlin has nixed a deal to give Israel a 30% discount on a $1 billion purchase of German gunboats, allegedly to be used for the protection of Israeli offshore gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea. Reportedly Israeli national security adviser Joseph Cohen claimed Chancellor Angela Merkel made an "explicit" promise to subsidize the purchase of the gun boats during a joint meeting between German and Israeli cabinets last February, but his counterpart, Merkel’s national security adviser Christoph Heusgen, denied that ever happened.
According to Haaretz, Heusgen told Cohen that there was "no chance" Germany’s parliament would approve the deal "given the breakdown of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which has been blamed at least partly on Israeli settlement construction."
For anyone following the trajectory of German-Israeli relations, this is long overdue. Back in ’09 at a press conference in Germany during Netanyahu’s first official visit after being elected prime minister, Merkel emphatically called for a full halt on settlement expansion ("Time is of the essence."). This was after Cohen’s predecessor, Uzi Arad, had "demanded" Merkel not even mention settlements during the press conference lest Netanyahu threaten to cancel the visit!
Later that same year Germany had tried influencing the U.S not to oppose the Goldstone Report at the UN, as a ploy to pressure Israel into complying with a settlement freeze, as revealed by a leaked cable from the U.S. embassy in Berlin. At the time of the leak, in 2010, The Jerusalem Post reported "The WikiLeaks disclosure is said by some in Germany to reveal profound cracks in the "special relationship" between Israel and Germany."
Fast forward a few years and media reports out of Germany have echoed sentiments those profound cracks were widening, indicating diplomatic relations between the two countries were deteriorating. Reports such as DW's A turning point in German-Israeli relations note German public opinion of Israel is on a nosedive (only 14 percent of Germans have a positive view of Israel) and characterize the relationship as "the worst crisis in diplomatic ties since Merkel took office almost 10 years ago." Published on the eve of Merkel’s 2014 disastrous press conference in Israel with Netanyahu (see photo above) and less than 2 weeks after EU President Martin Schulz speech at Knesset caused an uproar that reverberated in Germany and throughout Europe (but was ignored altogether by the US press!), the delay in any meaningful resolution between Israel and Palestine looms large.
Let’s review what went down last February while Merkel and her cabinet were visiting Israel. Via The Local Germany’s News in English, Merkel: Israeli settlement a 'grave concern’:
"We are looking at the settlements issue with grave concern," Merkel said at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We hope it will not stand in the way of a two-state solution and that we can overcome it."…
Merkel ….. reiterated that Germany adhered to the EU position on settlements, which under guidelines published in July prohibits financial dealings with settlement-based entities.
Hmm. Does that square with Merkel making an explicit promise to subsidize an Israel purchase worth hundreds of millions of dollars with no quid pro quo?
And what does it mean, that Germany adhered to the EU position on settlements under guidelines published last July? We reported at the time, the new European Union directive had a territorial clause banning all EU funding of projects in territories occupied by Israel since the ’67 war (pdf).
Are gunboats supporting settlement expansion? Merkel has stated Germany "does not support boycotting" Israel 'proper’, but what about supporting Israeli attacks on fishermen in the Gaza sea?
15th May 2014 | Palestinian Center for Human Rights | Gaza, Occupied Palestine
Israeli Naval forces continued to carry out attacks on Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip during the reporting period (1-30 April 2014), including 11 shooting incidents; 3 chasing incident that led to the arrest of 2 fishermen, and confiscation of 2 fishing boats and fishing equipment (22 pieces of fishing net) belonging to Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip.
Although on 21 May 2013 Israeli authorities limited the fishing distance in Gaza Sea to 6 nautical miles, they neither complied with that distance nor allowed Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip to sail and fish freely, and continued their attacks against them. PCHR documented all attacks carried out within the distance of 6 nautical miles, which proves that Israeli forces’ policies aim to tighten restrictions on the Gaza Strip’s fishermen and their sources of livelihood.
Violations of the International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law
Israel’s attacks against Palestinian fishermen, who do not pose any threat to Israeli soldiers, in the Gaza Strip constitute a flagrant violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, relevant to the protection of the civilian population and respect for its rights, including every person’s right to work, and the right to life, liberty and security of person, as codified in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), despite the fact that Israel is a State Party to the Covenant. Furthermore, these attacks occurred in a time where the fishers did not pose any threat to the Israeli naval troops, as they were doing their job to secure a living. Israeli violations in the reporting period were as follows:
First: Shooting Incidents
During the reporting period, PCHR documented 11 cases in which Israeli forces fired at Palestinian fishermen in the sea off the Gaza Strip shore. Those attacks took place off Beit Lahia shore in the northern Gaza Strip, and Khan Younis shore, in the southern Gaza Strip. As a result, fishermen were forced to flee and leave the sea in all attacks. It is noted that all these incidents happened within the 6 nautical miles allowed for fishermen to sail and fish in, according to the cease fire agreement concluded between Israel and Palestinian armed groups under Egyptian and international auspices
What if the gunboats are primarily used to attack those fisherman? Maybe Germans are just fed up with that.