A Balance of Weaknesses (II)

TEL AVIV/GAZA/BERLIN | | israel

TEL AVIV/GAZA/BERLIN (Own report) - Berlin is using international outrage over the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Flotilla to reinforce Germany's position in the Middle East. The German chancellor demands that the EU take part in an international investigation of the acts of violence that took place May 31. This would provide Germany with opportunities to obtain more influence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For years the Federal Republic of Germany has been systematically expanding its footholds in Israel's close vicinity - with military - as well as police missions in the name of the United Nations and the EU. The objective is the complete normalization of German operations throughout the Middle East. At the same time, Berlin is intensifying its cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza - which is only reinforcing the region's anti-Western forces, according to government advisors. The German government is continuing to combine signals for cooperation with Arab countries - who are contributing heavily to Germany's export success - with close cooperation with Israel, thereby averting a consolidation of a potential predominant power in the Middle East, a region rich in resources.

No Return to Business as Usual

The German Chancellor is demanding that representatives of the so-called Middle East Quartet be involved in the investigation of the acts of violence on one of the ships of the Gaza Flotilla, May 31, costing nine people their lives. The Middle East Quartet is comprised of the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the EU, by which Germany can have an influence on the appraisal of the Israeli attack. The German Foreign Ministry is also continuing to call for a "comprehensive, transparent and neutral investigation." There can "be no returning to 'business as usual'" declared the German foreign minister.[1] Media organs sympathetic to the government are underlining this demand with their reporting and commentaries. For example the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung printed an eyewitness report that gave an account of the brutality of the Israeli military operations thereby supporting an increase of pressure on Israel.[2]

Military and Police Presence

The demand that the EU be involved in the investigation of the May 31 attacks is a perpetuation of Berlin's systematic efforts to extend German positions into the direct vicinity of Israel. This objective is not only being served by German participation in the UN Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL), off the Lebanese coast. Last week, the government decided to continue maintaining German warships on mission in the Middle East within the UNIFIL framework. Germany is also participating in two EU police interventions in the Middle East: EUPOL COPPS is active on the West Bank whereas EUBAM RAFAH activities at the Egyptian-Gaza border have been suspended because of the Israeli blockade.[3] During the German presidency of the European Council during the first semester of 2007, the German government successfully resuscitated the Middle East Quartet, and since has again become more involved in the Middle East negotiations. Exemplary for German efforts, if nothing else, was the holding of the conference on the establishment of the Palestinian police and justice authorities in June 2008, in Berlin. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[4])

German-Palestinian Cooperation

Further efforts to enhance German influence in the Middle East were initiated just a few days ago. May 18, the newly founded German-Palestinian Steering Committee met for the first time in the German capital. With the help of this committee "the German engagement in the Palestinian territories will be consolidated and German-Palestinian cooperation intensified," explains the German foreign ministry.[5] The German foreign minister and the Palestinian prime minister presided over the May 18 meeting, attended by several ministers from both sides. No other country has this level of cooperation with the Palestinian Authority. Berlin is insuring an exclusive position in relationship to Ramallah's political elite. With its demand that the blockade around the Gaza Strip be immediately lifted, Berlin is signaling closer cooperation with the Arab world. It is "of primary importance to us" to "make the unhampered admission of humanitarian supplies possible," the German foreign minister declared.[6] As a matter of fact, government advisors criticize the fact that the blockade has essentially contributed to "the consolidation of Hamas' control over the Gaza Strip territory and its population,"[7] thereby reinforcing anti-Western forces of the Middle East.

Export Customers

By sending signals out to the Arab world, the German government is campaigning for a further expansion of its cooperation with the dictatorial regimes at the Persian Gulf, a cooperation that has been developing significantly over the past few years. This can clearly be seen in trade statistics. Whereas in 1999, Israel (with German imports valued at US $2.9 billion) had by far been the most important trading partner for German goods in the Middle East, ahead of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, by 2008, the Emirates (8.2 billion Euros) and Saudi Arabia (5.2 billion Euros) were among those trading partners who had far surpassed Israel (3.9 billion Euros) in the importation of German industrial products, followed closely by Iran (3.9 billion Euros), in spite of sanctions. The shift accompanying closer military cooperation with several Arab countries (german-foreign-policy.com reported [8]) is, to a growing extent, consolidating German standing all around the Persian Gulf, and providing German Middle Eastern policy a more firm footing.

Strategy of Tension

Still Berlin's criticism of Israel's attacks May 31 is, in no way, leading toward serious limitations of German-Israeli cooperation, because of its sustained interests in maintaining cooperation with the Israeli military and security industry,[9] - which not only made the Bundeswehr's first use of Israeli drones in Afghanistan possible - but also because of its close military cooperation. In May, a German naval unit visited Israel for the first time to carry out joint maneuvers with Israeli fast patrol boats. But above all, the sustained Israeli-Arab conflict insures a sustained tension in the Middle East, which prevents the possible consolidation of a predominating power in this resources rich region of the world [10] aimed at assuring permanent access for the West.[11]

[1] Gaza: Forderung nach umfassender und transparenter Aufklärung; www.auswaertiges-amt.de
[2] Aktion Himmelswind; Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung 06.06.2010
[3], [4] see also Die Stunde der Europäer
[5] "Zukunft für Palästina" - Erster Deutsch-Palästinensischer Lenkungsausschuss in Berlin; www.auswaertiges-amt.de 14.05.2010
[6] Gaza: Forderung nach umfassender und transparenter Aufklärung; www.auswaertiges-amt.de
[7] Muriel Asseburg: Ending the Gaza blockade; www.swp-berlin.org 27.05.2010
[8] see also Boomdiktaturen and Militärpartner am Golf (II)
[9] see also Eine nützliche Beziehung
[10] see also Gulf Stability and Beziehungspflege
[11] see also A Balance of Weaknesses