Twenty-four former German ambassadors urged the German government to take a harder position against Israel and to rethink its Middle East policy.
In letters sent to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, they ask for a more resolute stance against Israel's settlement policy.
”Israel will not be able to keep on hoping to gain peace and retain its hold on Palestinian territories at the same time,” the group wrote in a position paper quoted by the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily.
The idea for the position paper was Martin Schneller's, former German ambassador to Jordan. Among the diplomats who singed it were Hans-Georg Wieck, former chief of Germany's Federal Intelligence service (BND), and German ambassadors Gerhard Fulda and Michael Libal.
Remember the past, look to the future
The diplomats stressed that Germany has committed itself to protect Israel's security “as a historical legacy,” however, true security can “only be achieved through political means, not through occupation and colonization or by relying on military superiority. Instead, it can be reached by a withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and a subsequent Palestinian state.”
The German Middle East policy, added the paper, should focus on the “urgent necessities of the future”, without forgetting the German-Jewish past.
The Middle East conflict as it is would constitute a "breeding ground for extremism that seriously threatens public safety, not only in the region itself but also in Europe and other parts of the world,” continued the paper.
The paper further calls for a "tougher stance" against Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which would demand they implement the two-state solution. "The continuation of certain benefits or financial support to one side or the other, as well as an increasing convergence with the European Union, could be made dependable of concrete progresses in conflict management."
The fact that the letter mention financial sanction, even if very vaguely, is considered breaking a German taboo.
Among the changes the diplomats wish to instate is involving Hamas in the political process as a negotiating partner. They also demanded the Gaza crossings be opened.
The diplomats claim that the "assertion that a Palestinian state will threaten Israel's existence can no longer be accepted seriously, but a continued conflict will inevitably lead to unforeseeable risks."
'We're not anti-Israel'
The paper, its authors stressed, is not meant to be anti-Israel. Former ambassador Michael Libal told German television that “We are not against Israel, we're just for peace in the Middle East.”
The group said it wants to encourage the German government to support US-led peace initiatives, even if it calls for the use of some pressure.
Currently, he said, the principle of solidarity can be interpreted as supporting every Israeli policy by any Israeli government. "I think, in the long run, we'll do Israel a greater service by participating in the international effort to achieve peace."
German news website “Deutsche Welle Online” reported Wednesday that German diplomats had been secretly complaining for quite a while, that Germany thwarts any attempts to force Israel to adhere to international agreements.
The website cites the example of a consumers ban on settlement-produced goods by some European countries, which Germany hindered, as well as Germany's efforts within EU bodies to curb the growing criticism of Israel's the settlement policy.