The Angela Merkel that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with on Monday is not the same Angela Merkel he worked with when she first took office nine years ago.
Germany’s chancellor no longer holds the reins of power in Europe. Although the Christian Democratic Union of Germany party won the last elections, it took Merkel six months to form a new government—a precedent indicative of the growing threat to the political establishment in the country. While Merkel ultimately formed a government with the rival Social Democratic Party, one cannot be sure internal tensions will allow the government to continue for very long.
The face of Europe has also changed dramatically in the past two years. Many believe it is now French President Emmanuel Macron, and not Merkel, who sets the tone for the European Union. Macron aspires to introduce reforms to the E.U. that would strengthen its federal character, in particular as concerns its financial management, at the expense of the sovereignty of member states. Merkel has become the main force obstructing these reforms. The rise of the populist right, which opposes the idea of a “United States of Europe,” and supports in principle, a Europe of nation-states instead, seems to have made it clear to Merkel that if she hopes to prevent the break-up of the E.U. and the weakening of Germany’s senior status, the E.U. must navigate a new course.
There is growing anti-German sentiment in France, Italy, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Even Austria is grumbling over Berlin’s seemingly authoritative role. In Germany itself, the third-largest party in the Bundestag opposes the E.U. Many of its supporters feel disappointed by Merkel, especially since she let 2 million “refugees” into Germany. Italy’s vague political future could prove significant for the E.U. in a year in which Britain is set to voluntarily leave the union. Add to that growing tension between Brussels, and Eastern and Central European states, pressure on the E.U. to accept Balkan states as members, conflicts with the E.U.’s greatest ally, the United States, and, of course, the ever-present Russian threat.
A significant portion of talks Netanyahu will hold in Berlin, Paris and London will obviously center on convincing the E.U. to obligate Iran to agree to vital additions to the nuclear deal, and significantly reduce its subversive activities in the Middle East and in particular on Israel’s borders. Although there are those in the European Union who have challenged the E.U. line that holds the union must remain in the accord, countries who are set to gain financially from the deal, like France, Germany, Italy and Austria, will continue to insist the E.U. honor its commitments, i.e. business deals and investments, towards Tehran.
One cannot ignore the fact that, in light of Iranian provocations in Syria and Palestinian provocations in the Gaza Strip, the new German government has expressed full support for Israel’s unconditional right to protect its citizens, borders and territory. This support is a stark contrast from the weak language of the E.U. Commission. This refreshing change comes not just from Merkel’s office, from which a number of officials with problematic views on Israel have recently departed, but as a result of a generational shift led by the Christian Democrats’ social democratic partner. The older generation, which had an uncontrollable urge to preach morality to Israel, was sent home. The new leadership is too busy grappling with the serious problems facing Germany and the party to worry about bringing about a new world order.
Israel should begin to engage in polite discussions with this German government over the problematic nature of Germany’s involvement in Israel’s internal affairs and funding of Palestinian organizations that do nothing to promote peace.
Eldad Beck is an Israeli journalist and author.