BERLIN - Norbert Lammert, president of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament in Germany, did not hesitate in choosing his words. During a joint press conference he held last week in Berlin with his Israeli counterpart, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, he defined the European Union's decision to label products from Jewish communities beyond the Green Line as "unnecessary and unwise."
In conversations they held with Bundestag members, Edelstein and the delegation of Knesset members who accompanied him on an official visit marking 50 years of diplomatic relations with Germany got the impression that the German public representatives were surprised by the harsh Israeli response to the product labeling.
They were mainly surprised by the Israeli declaration that the labeling stems from the anti-Semitic tradition of marking Jews. The German lawmakers, who use every opportunity to stress that their country has learned from its criminal history towards the Jewish people, rejected the claims of anti-Semitism and said they were certain that businesses in Europe would not implement the product labeling.
The official German responses to the product labeling issue may create the wrong impression that the EU carried out a diplomatic maneuver at its own accord on a very sensitive issue in the relations with Israel. But that is not the case.
In retrospect, the official Germany is using the EU to advance a policy which seeks to impose solutions and agreements which Israel finds unacceptable through economic pressure. "In the current reality, it's impossible to point out who made the product labeling decision, so it's also impossible to try to change the decision," says a senior member of the German-Israeli Friendship Association, which is working to cancel the product labeling.
Germany is holding the European Commission responsible, while the latter is defending itself by claiming that it acted in accordance with requests it received from EU member countries. But in reality, German representatives in the European Parliament supported the product labeling.
When looking into the national affiliation of the European officials who determine the EU's foreign policy, one will find quite a few Germans - diplomats from the Foreign Office and Chancellor Angela Merkel's associates. Did they act independently or did they implement a policy formed in accordance with Berlin? Is it convenient for the German government to play along with Israel, presenting commitment, sensitivity and understanding in Berlin while acting the opposite way in Brussels?
While Edelstein was greeted respectfully in Berlin, heads of the parliamentary German-Israel Friendship Association went to the trouble of publishing a letter they sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which included harsh criticism against the transparency required from organizations that receive generous funding from European government and the EU.
Germany didn’t have the required sensitivity to prevent the EU from labeling settlement products, but when a demand is raised in Israel for transparency in terms of involvement in the country's internal affairs, the German sensitivity is fully aroused. And it's not unintentional: Many German bodies - government ministries, political funds, private funds, church organizations, different charity organizations - are involved in funding the activities of some bodies which undermine Israel's sovereignty, and in some cases its existence as well.
This activity, which is also shared by other governments in the European Union, has become normative due to the weakness of the Israeli response. Now, as Israel is trying to set clear rules for intervention in its internal affairs, the Europeans are launching a war to maintain the colonial spaces they have created for themselves in Israel.
The jubilee year of Israel-Germany relations is about to end. It began on a sour note of turning the "Israelis in Berlin" issue into the essence of the relationship between the two countries and is ending in complete cacophony. Instead of developing a serious discussion about problems, essence and advancing the ties, we received plenty of ceremonies and declarations, many of which have no significant contribution to the future of the Germany-Israel relations. What a shame.