Our World: Germany's pro-Israel power play
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's speech in German before the Knesset this afternoon will be the culmination of what the Israeli media has referred to as an "historic" three-day state visit to Israel. The day before Merkel launched her "historic" visit, Der Spiegel reported on the "historic" visit of another German to Afghanistan.
That visit ended on March 3 when the visitor in question, known as Cüneyt C. from Bavaria and also known as Saad Ebu Furkan blew himself up in front of a US guard post in Khost, an hour's drive from the border with Pakistan where the German-Turk underwent terror training. Two US soldiers were killed and dozens were wounded after being trapped beneath the rubble, making C. Germany's first successful suicide bomber.
Although the first German to kill US forces, C.'s associate, Sadullah K. a young German from the state of Hesse died trying. K. was killed in October in a US airstrike along the Pakistan-Afghan border after he also underwent training in Pakistan. Both men belonged to the German-based Islamic Jihad Union. The IJU made headlines in September when German investigators rounded up the leaders of an IJU cell which was planning massive attacks against American targets in Germany. These leaders - also Germans - were in contact with both C. and K. who escaped the police dragnet and made it to Pakistan after travelling through Turkey and Iran.
And of course, Germany's reputation as a home for al-Qaida-like jihadists was brandished by Saudi and Egyptian nationals who studied in Hamburg several years ago. Led by Muhammad Atta, they enjoyed German hospitality while planning the attacks they carried out in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.
MERKEL, WHO presents herself and her country as Israel's greatest friend and supporter in Europe, will no doubt ignore this story in her Knesset speech. She will doubtlessly also not mention that her country is Iran's largest importer. She might mention that last year Germany did cancel a half of its loan guarantees to German firms doing business with Iran. But she won't mention that the move has had almost no impact on trade volume. In a recent report on German firms in Iran, Reuters interviewed British businessman Robert Mills, who runs DHL's operation in Teheran. DHL, the express delivery firm is a unit of the mail and logistics group Deutsche Post.
Mills gushed about the booming business his firm is doing in Iran, in spite of the international sanctions. Mills said the tonnage handled by DHL jumped by 50 per cent in the last two years and the company has doubled its turnover in Iran since 2005 on the back of rising imports of everything from telecommunications equipment to car spare parts.
Like Mills, other businessmen representing German firms reported booming businesses and expanding opportunities in spite of UN sanctions. Business managers reported that their earnings have doubled and tripled in the past two years.
Iran's faith in its German business partners is apparently unlimited. Why else would it be considering listing $92 billion in shares of its energy holding company on the Frankfurt stock exchange? As MEED, the Middle East Business Intelligence Report reported Sunday, with over 1,700 German firms operating in Iran, the fact that Germany recently broke off banking ties with Iranian banks is not viewed as an obstacle to listing the firm on the Frankfurt exchange. A spokeswoman for Deutsche Borse, the company which manages the exchange told the journal that it would have no xobjection to listing the Iranian firm.
GERMANY'S actions toward Iran cannot be squared with Merkel's rhetoric of support for Israel and commitment to Israel's security. Both Germany's actions and its pro-Israel rhetoric can only be understood when seen through the lens of power politics - which is the lens that informs European policymakers in their decisions relating to Israel, Iran, the Middle East, and indeed the world as a whole.
Power politics are a function of two main components - the threat of war and violence, and economic leverage. From the Europeans' perspective, the Arab world and Iran wield both weapons of power politics against them. Through restive, increasingly radicalized Muslim minority populations in Europe - like C. and K. and their IJU colleagues in Germany and Pakistan - the Islamic world wields the threat of terror over the heads of European leaders. And through oil, they wield the ultimate commercial gun at Europe's head.
Neither the EU nor any single European state has managed to put together a coherent or rational domestic policy for contending with the threat posed by Europe's Muslim minorities. And so, the issue has been deflected to the realm of foreign policy. There, combined with the oil threat, the Europeans have contended with Arab and Islamic pressure by opting to appease them. This they do by attacking Israel, supporting the Palestinians, and preventing the disarmament or political defeat of Hizbullah in Lebanon.
The Europeans act as they do for a combination of reasons. First, they have no real military capacity to either defend themselves or attack the Arab and Muslim states which foment rebellion among their own Muslim minorities. Second, they have no wish to use their collective commercial power. If they were interested in the latter of course, they could paralyze the Iranian economy in weeks simply by cutting off their trade with Teheran. And third, the ultimate military free riders, they trust that the US or Israel, which are both more directly threatened by Iran's nuclear program than they, will take out Iran's nuclear installations for them.
THE EU'S appeasement policies have been made clear through their actions as the commanders of UNIFIL forces in Lebanon since the Second Lebanon War. It was Israel's hope that European forces, which make up the majority of the 15,000 UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon, would prevent Hizbullah from rearming after the war and, perhaps, help to strengthen the pro-Western Siniora government against Syrian, Iranian and Hizbullah attempts to overthrow it. Yet the opposite has occurred. Since the war, and under the blind eyes of the Europeans, Hizbullah has rebuilt its forces. Three years after the March 14 demonstration which fomented the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, the Siniora government is paralyzed and the March 14 Movement is demoralized and in disarray.
The Germans provided the public with one of the most absurd displays of European hypocrisy and mendacity on February 29. That day, Germany transferred command over UNIFIL's naval contingent to Italy. After deploying a force of four ships and 2,400 men to the Lebanese coastline in 2006 with the expressed purpose of preventing Hizbullah's rearmament, Germany devoted most of its efforts to complaining about Israeli overflights of Lebanese airspace and provoking the IAF by launching German helicopters into Israeli airspace without prior coordination.
And yet, at the command handover last month, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung announced, "We can guarantee that no weapons were smuggled by sea." For its part, Hizbullah has clearly been unimpressed by Germany's naval power. It has registered no complaints against Germany's navy, something it would have done if any of the 13,000 boats the Germans claim to have inspected was actually carrying its weapons. Significantly, while Hizbullah was downright friendly to the German navy, it went into a near apoplectic fit of rage when, the same week that the Germans transferred command to the Italians, the USS Cole anchored off Lebanon's coast.
While Merkel will ignore her country's economic support for Iran and its military weakness and decision to embrace appeasement of the Arabs at Israel's expense as a national and continental strategy during her address to the Knesset, she will wax poetically about her nation's support for the so-called "peace process" and Palestinian statehood.
Merkel of course, knows full well that Israel's presumptive Palestinian "peace partner" the Fatah movement is a terrorist group. She also knows that the Olmert-Livni-Barak government's presumptive interlocutor for peace, Palestinian Authority Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas is neither able nor interested in establishing a Palestinian state that will live at peace with Israel. She also knows that if the so-called peace process brings about a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, that state will simply be a terror state that will stand at the side of the terror state that was established in Gaza in 2005.
AND YET, rather than confront Merkel and her European colleagues with these known facts, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government prefers to play along with the farce. In their view, all of this is immaterial. The Israeli government's European policy is to appease the Europeans by helping them to appease the Arabs.
If the Olmert-Livni-Barak government were to pause to consider what they are doing they would recognize that they have missed the entire point. They have ignored the power politics that inform Europe's decision-makers' policy moves. Were they to recognize them, they would recognize their appeasement policy for the disaster it has become.
If Israel were to play the power politics game, it would understand that it must do three things. First, it must use its own considerable economic leverage to force individual European firms to decide if they are willing to forego Israeli technology in favor of Iranian export markets which make up only one percent of European foreign trade. Second, they would ensure that the Europeans understand that Israel will use its considerable military power to defeat its enemies. And finally, it would use its political weight to expose Europe's humanitarian and pro-peace rhetoric as a hypocritical sham.
But of course, in the media frenzy of feel good German-Israeli friendship that has characterized Merkel's visit, none of this is likely to occur this week. And in the appeasement frenzied political climate that has gripped Israel since 1993, it is hard to imagine anyone stopping to realize that we are the only ones who take the Europeans at their word.