(March 29, 2019 / JNS) The Free Democratic Party has challenged the federal government to reverse anti-Israel German voting patterns at the United Nations. The March 14 motion was introduced to the plenary by Parliament members Bijan Djir-Sarai and Frank Müller-Rosentritt, and called on the federal government in U.N. bodies “to dissociate from unilateral, primarily politically motivated initiatives and alliances of anti-Israeli Member States, and protect Israel and legitimate Israeli interests from unilateral condemnation.”
In 2018 alone, Germany voted 16 times for anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations out of 21 while abstaining from four. These resolutions included condemning Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and calling on Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria. In December 2017, Germany voted for a U.N. resolution rejecting America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“As Free Democrats, we are convinced that the legitimacy and functionality of international organizations, such as the United Nations, can only be maintained if the same standards apply to all members and are not misused for one-sided campaigns,” said Müller-Rosentritt. “That was, in addition to the already mentioned commitment to Israel’s right to exist, another main reason to introduce this motion into the German Bundestag.”
Only two parties, the economically liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the right-wing Alterative for Deutschland (AfD), voted in favor. In the final tally, 408 Parliament members voted against the motion, 155 voted in favor with 65 abstentions. The Social Democrats (SPD), the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and the Left Party unanimously rejected the motion. The Greens abstained. Only one member of the governing CDU-CSU-SPD coalition, Hans-Peter Friedrich, of the Christian Social Union (CSU), voted in favor.
Müller-Rosentritt expressed his disappointment, suggesting that political motivations might explain some of the “nays” among parties that are traditionally Israel-friendly.
“Although we know that many members of the CDU/CSU would have liked to vote in favor of the motion, they preferred to keep the coalition peace and not create a conflict with the SPD,” he said.
In a statement to JNS, MP Jürgen Hardt, foreign-policy spokesperson for the CDU/CSU Bundestag Parliamentary Group, sought to shed light on the largely united front against the FDP resolution.
“The relations between Germany and Israel are of pivotal importance to the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group,” he said. “This is not only due to our joint history and Germany’s responsibility for the unparalleled cruelties of the Shoah. The CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group is convinced that Germany and Israel are two close and strategic partners in a volatile region. For us, Israel’s security is part of Germany’s raison d’état.” He added that protecting Israel and Israeli interests from one-sided attacks or initiatives in international organizations is a part of this commitment, but that the way the resolution was administered was faulty.
“The resolution rightly points out the fact that there is a strong one-sided anti-Israeli bias when it comes to resolutions in the U.N. system,” said Hardt. “At the same time, it totally leaves out all initiatives by the German government aimed at reducing anti-Israeli rhetoric in resolution projects. I can personally say that Israeli interlocutors have expressed praise for these German efforts during resolution negotiations time and again.
“But what I criticize the most is the fact that the FDP group left the broad pro-Israeli consensus of the parties of the democratic center with this resolution project. They did not allow the resolution to be sent to the Foreign Affairs Committee for further discussions with the aim of agreeing on a broadly supported, multi-partisan resolution in that matter. In order to gain maximum political capital out of this maneuver, the FDP forced a vote without consultations, which did not allow us—the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group—to support the resolution. Giving up this consensus can, to my opinion, not be in the Israeli interest. It is definitely not in the interest of Germany.”
Instrumentalizing Israel once again?
The FDP resolution notwithstanding, the German government has increasingly come under fire in recent years for allegedly undermining Israel.
“Year after year, we hear condemnations of anti-Semitism and so forth, but when it comes down to it, these are all empty words,” said Sacha Stawski, organizer of the biennial Israel Congress in Frankfurt and director of the watchdog group, Honestly Concerned. “In practice, Germany has chosen to court the dangerous anti-Semitic Iranian regime, which reiterates its wish to eradicate Israel virtually on a daily basis; refuses to outlaw the terrorist organization Hezbollah; and so forth. And likewise, Germany has chosen to either align itself with Israel’s worst enemies or at most to abstain in the vast majority of the endless number of one-sided anti-Israel resolutions.”
In a statement to JNS, the Israeli embassy in Berlin said: “We see, positively, a broader public debate on this matter that we hope can produce tangible results. We think it’s imperative that Germany’s commitment to Israel’s security on the bilateral level will also be expressed at the multilateral level in the U.N.”
Despite the AfD’s pro-Israel vote, the Israeli embassy has not changed its position towards the party, which reflects the Israeli government’s policy not to engage with European right-wing parties. Stawski, an AfD critic, is likewise not swayed. Many German Jews believe that the AfD courts and overlooks Nazi sympathies among its voters.
“It does not soften my stand towards the AfD one bit,” said Stawski. “In fact, I believe that the AfD vote in this case harmed the overall subject, and that it made it more difficult for the government parties to vote in favor with the AfD. I think they’re instrumentalizing Israel once again.”
Foreign-policy analyst and president of the Middle East Forum Daniel Pipes has come out in favor of what he terms “civilizationist parties” that he believes seek to preserve Western values in the face of a threat of Islamization. While in Berlin as the vote took place, he tweeted: “Merkel just talks, AfD delivers”
#Germany‘s parliament voted yesterday on a resolution to vote favorably to Israel at the UN. 1 member out of 398 in the government coalition (2 circles on left) voted in favor. 89% of #AfD & 86% of FDP voted in favor.
— Daniel Pipes دانيال بايبس (@DanielPipes) March 15, 2019
“The mainstream pro-Israel position in Europe supports Israel’s existence and criticizes Netanyahu government policies as roughly equal moral imperatives,” he told JNS. European Jewish leadership, he added, largely shares this view.
In October 2018, several dozen Jews launched the “Jews in the AfD” faction, believing in the AfD’s sincere support for Israel.
Petr Bystron, AfD’s spokesperson for the Foreign Policy Committee, spoke at that October caucus.
“The question is not why the AfD voted this way, but why the other parties refuse to condemn the anti-Semitic voting at the U.N.,” Bystron told JNS. “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East where the rights of women, gays and religious minorities are respected. And Germany has a special responsibility to support our best allies in the region. However, the German foreign ministry pretends like it has to join the anti-Israel Arab U.N. bloc if it wants to retain a voice. This is like getting in a car full of drunks to think you can save them from driving off a cliff. You have to get out of the car.”
AfD’s agreement does not deter the FDP from standing firmly behind it.
“The party itself must come to terms with the fact that on the one hand, it superficially shares our position, but on the other hand, it does not consistently take action against anti-Semites in its own ranks,” said Müller-Rosentritt. “We do not base our amendments in Parliament on who could agree with our concerns or reject them.”