A Balance of Weaknesses

GAZA/BERLIN | | israel

GAZA/BERLIN (Own report) - Berlin's foreign policy politicians do not rule out a German military mission to the Gaza Strip. The Chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee of the German Parliament (Bundestag) demands that under certain circumstances, Germany should furnish soldiers to a multi-national Gaza Force. The demand for German military presence in the immediate vicinity of Israel has been raised in Berlin already in 2002 and is being systematically pursued ever since, particularly via the German naval mission off the Lebanese coast. An eventual Gaza intervention would not only serve to prevent further combat, but, as in the Lebanon mission, also reinforce the friendly forces - on both sides. With this in mind, Berlin and the EU have been active for years in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories and have influential structures at their disposal also in Israel. In the meantime, the German government is seeking to benefit from the conflict, through allegedly non-partisan "mediators". Turkey and Arab allies are being used as proxies. Since the founding of the state of Israel, the establishment of a military balance of forces has been sought between the parties to the conflict, permitting Western industrial nations to play one off against the other.

The Chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee of the German Bundestag, Ruprecht Polenz (CDU), is contemplating a Bundeswehr deployment in the Gaza Strip. This corresponds to a suggestion made by Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, who would like to establish a "monitoring system" in the war zone, for the verification of a cease-fire and the prohibition of "arms smuggling", meaning the disruption of the logistical routes, making Israel's hermetic sealing of the Palestinian territory even more impermeable. Tel Aviv will not allow the residents of Gaza independent supply routes neither by land, sea nor from the air. The Israeli prime minister had already spoken of the "monitoring system" to the German chancellor and the US president, both having agreed that sovereign rights of the Palestinians be monopolized by Israel and its allies. If Germany is asked to participate in a multilateral deployment like the Unifil mission in Lebanon, then Germany should take part." This is how Polenz circumscribes the planned violation of Palestinian (factually nonexistent) sovereignty.[1] Foreign policy experts of the SPD are also not excluding the sending of German forces to the Gaza Strip.[2]

Trashing History

The German government had expressed its intention of establishing a military presence in Israel's immediate vicinity as far back as 2002. Back then, the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, (SPD) declared, under approbation from almost all of the parliamentary parties, that he "in principle, would and could not exclude" an intervention of the Bundeswehr in the Middle East.[3] Just shortly before the Chancellor's statement, a strategy paper had been introduced at a Bertelsmann Foundation blue-ribbon conference. The paper proposed sending an EU military mission - a so-called peace keeping mission - to the Middle East.[4] Volker Perthes, at the time the Middle East expert in and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin, explained in the summer of 2002 that there was "much approbation from the Palestinian side as well as - astonishingly - from Israelis" for an intervention of German soldiers. Perthes is today the SWP director.[5] Voices of caution were in the minority. "It should be clear to anyone who is sensitive at all" that it is impossible for Germany to send soldiers to the Israeli borders, said Wolfgang Benz, director of the Center for Anti-Semitism Studies in Berlin, detecting a "trashing of history" in the government's Middle East plans.[6]

Precedence

As a matter of fact, since 2002 Germany has significantly extended its presence in the Middle East. Germany is militarily participating in the UN's UNIFIL Mission in Lebanon and is using this participation to arm and train the Lebanese Army. Under the direction and with the equipment of the German Navy, the Federal Police and the German customs service, Lebanon has been fortifying its terrestrial borders, also to reduce Syria's influence and thereby strengthen the Western positions in that country.[7] With German participation, the EU is running a training program for police officers in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories (EUPOL COPPS). They are also furnishing equipment.[8] On the Rafah border crossing, as well, Berlin and Brussels had stationed police officers (EUBAM Rafah), but this measure has been suspended.[9] Last year the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) declared that the mission in Lebanon could "serve as a precedence for similar maritime missions in similar regional scenarios,"[10] giving the example, "the coast of the Gaza Strip."

Condition

A Bundeswehr mission in the Gaza Strip, which would significantly upgrade German military presence at Israeli borders, seems now to be coming within reach. Yesterday, Jan. 6, the German chancellor endorsed, for the first time, "international support" in interrupting supply routes to the war zone,[11] thereby sustaining the German government's previous Middle East policy: supporting the acquiescent forces, such as the Palestinian Fatah, while offensively combating the recalcitrant organizations, such as the Palestinian Hamas or the Lebanese Hisbollah. Over the past few years, German politicians have, on various occasions, called for taking a directly opposite course to that of the USA and Israel and negotiate with Hamas,[12] to no avail. By adhering to the Western alliance strategy, the German government is fulfilling the prerequisites for German soldiers' intervention in the Middle East.

No Interest

Because of its partisanship, Berlin is denied the role of "mediator" between the parties in conflict in the Middle East, a role Berlin cherishes for enhancing its position. This is why Berlin has recently sought to bring Turkey and Egypt into focus as "mediators," to exercise influence through them. "It is true that Turkey's, Saudi Arabia's and Egypt's regional conflict agendas over the past few years have more often been much more pragmatic than those of certain Western participants," writes the SWP director. The three states named would also, if necessary, negotiate with Hamas, if this should be needed for reaching a cease fire. But above all, "these structurally conservative powers would have no interest in a revolutionization of Middle Eastern relations," - the biggest fear of the Western business and military alliance, that, for decades, has been promoting a military balance of forces between Israel and its Arab neighbors, conducive to maintaining a weak adversary, permitting the exploitation of the region's natural resources.[13]

[1] Hamas droht Israelis mit Anschlägen in aller Welt; Der Tagesspiegel 06.01.2009
[2] "Wenn es dem Frieden dient"; Der Tagesspiegel 06.01.2009
[3] see also Kanzler erwägt Bundeswehreinsatz im Nahen Osten
[4] see also Deutsche Außenpolitik entwirft Strategie für europäischen "Friedenseinsatz" in Israel
[5] see also "Sympathie" für deutsche Soldaten in Israel
[6] see also Kanzler erwägt Bundeswehreinsatz im Nahen Osten
[7] see also Zur Zusammenarbeit bringen and Independent Presence
[8], [9], [10] see also Independent Presence
[11] Bundeskanzlerin Merkel zutiefst besorgt wegen der Lage in Gaza. Telefonate mit Erdogan und Bush; Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung 06.01.2009
[12] see also Die Stunde der Europäer
[13] Volker Perthes: Der Weg führt über Jerusalem; Süddeutsche Zeitung 02.01.2008