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German Friend?

Best friends?- Netanyahu and Merkel Photo: Reuters
Best friends?- Netanyahu and Merkel Photo: Reuters
 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Photo: AP
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Photo: AP
 
 

Boosting Israel's enemies

Op-ed: Germany invokes pro-Israel rhetoric but its pro-Iran actions speak louder than words

Benjamin Weinthal
Published: 04.12.11, 18:21 / Israel Opinion

Only hours before German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Berlin on Thursday, her government nailed a deal worth billions of Euros with the greatest threat to Israel’s existence. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle colluded with the US sanctioned Hamburg-based European-Iranian trade bank (EIH) and Germany's central bank (Bundesbank) to pump several billions of Euros into Iran's coffers.

 

In short, Germany's Foreign Ministry circumvented US sanctions against Iran to transfer India crude oil payments to National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), a financial arm of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime. The US had clamped down on India's Asia Clearing Union to block a 9 billion euro payment to Iran's rulers, but the Merkel administration was quick to do Iran's dirty work in Europe.

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The oil funds have swollen the financial pockets of Iran’s regime, allowing Tehran's rulers to advance their illicit military and nuclear programs. The desperately needed capital spells a new financial windfall for Iran to continue support for its terror subsidiaries, Hamas and Hezbollah. All of this helps explain why Germany's main business daily Handelsblatt quoted Yinam Cohen, Israel’s spokesman at its embassy in Berlin, calling for the immediate closure of the EIH on the paper's front page.

 

Dr. Dieter Graumann, the first Israel-born head of Germany's Central Council of Jews, neatly captured German-Iranian trade relations: “That far too many German firms continue unimpeded to conduct their repugnant business with the Iranian terror regime – the reigning world champion in Holocaust denial – is unfortunately a fact, and continues to be a crying shame.”

 

The troika - Bundesbank, Germany's Foreign Ministry, and Iran's terror bank EIH - reveal how Germany has energetically worked to sustain Iran's regime, undermine the security of Israel and the West, and enable Iran's lethal repression of democrats, women, and minority groups.

 

While Chancellor Merkel reacted in a glacial-like pace to the disturbing revelations about Germany's financial deals with the mullahs' regime, she did, however, stop future crude oil payments to Iran last Wednesday, the day Netanyahu's plane landed in Berlin. Though the US Treasury considers the EIH to be one of the main financial conduits in Europe for Iran's drive to go nuclear and finance its missile program, Merkel and Westerwelle have steadfastly refused to shut the EIH terror bank.

 

In response to the EIH, Graumann, the head of Germany's 105,000 member Jewish community, said, “This bank should not be in the German banking world, this bank should be prohibited. It has long been known that this institute is an instrument and henchman of the Tehran regime, which provides the fanatic mullahs there with significant financial means – with which they in turn finance hatred, terror, death and the nuclear program there.”

 

Make human rights an issue

The scandal-plagued EIH is just another example of a troubling trail of German economic support for Iran's pariah state. In 2008, Merkel told Israel's Knesset that Iran's nuclear program must be stopped and that Israel's security is “non-negotiable” for her country. Yet Germany remains Iran's number one European trade partner, with a roughly 4 billion euro annual trade volume with Iran's rulers.

 

Sadly, the German government only moderately changes its thriving pro-Iran bank and economic policies when Merkel fears it could jeopardize German firms' access to American markets and financial institutions.

 

Both Germany and the Obama Administration ought to embrace the far-sighted views of US Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, who has pushed for human rights to become a cornerstone of a more robust US foreign policy toward Iran's out-of-control regime.

 

Instead, last year, the Bundestag chose to smack Israel with a resolution for “violating the principle of proportionality” by employing self-defense measures against the radical activists aboard the Mavi Marmara. Merkel stood by as members of her governing coalition voted unanimously in the Bundestag to blast Israel. There was not one dissenting vote among the 600-plus members of parliament, an eerie reminder of Kaiser Wilhem II's famous line:”I know no more parties. I know only Germans!”

 

Merkel’s stance on the resolution – which blasted a naval interception that was deemed vital by Israel to prevent a violation of its legal blockade of Gaza – was regarded by many in Israel as severely watering down her pledge to the Knesset in 2008 that the Jewish state’s security interests are integral to Germany’s national security.

 

If past is prologue, Israel ought to have some pressing worries about Germany's foreign policy. When Israel was clearly on the ropes during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt denied the Americans the right to use the Bremerhaven harbor to ship sorely needed military arms to Israel. Brandt - similar to Merkel's verbal advocacy for the Jewish state - invoked pro-Israel rhetoric, terming German-Israeli relations to be of a “special nature” and declaring that “for us Germans there is no neutrality of the heart towards Israel.” But Brandt left the Israelis out in the bitter cold.

 

Germany now has a unique opportunity to support Israel and the West. Merkel can green-light the sale of a sixth Dolphin submarine to Israel at a reduced fee - with possible second-strike nuclear capability - to ratchet up Israel's security in a volatile and dangerous region. In response to Netanyahu's request for the vessel, Merkel vaguely stated that Israel's “comprehensive security situation” was discussed.

 

Will Merkel ever fill her pro-Israel rhetoric with rock-solid meaning and action?

 

The writer is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

 

 

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