When it comes to matching words with action against the Islamic Republic of Iran, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s political class have their heads deep in the sand.
In a jaw-dropping May editorial on the webpage of the Bild, Germany’s largest newspaper, the co-editor-in-chief, Julian Reichelt provides a bill of particulars for Merkel’s failing grade:
“Germany is Iran’s most important trading partner in Europe. The federal government [in Berlin] is working tirelessly to bypass U.S. sanctions against Iran. There is no other country in Europe that pours so much money into the anti-Semitic terrorist Iranian regime, which finances the very missiles that are currently being fired [by Hamas] on Tel Aviv.”
Reichelt also cites Merkel’s decision not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This reporter revealed in 2018 that Merkel lobbied European countries not to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem after Washington did so that year.
When Romania, for instance, was planning to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Merkel waged a no-holds-barred campaign against the Eastern European country and its ethnic German president, Klaus Werner Iohannis, to stop the move. Merkel also pressured other E.U. countries not to transfer their embassies to Jerusalem.
Had Romania established its embassy in Jerusalem, the chances of other Eastern European countries, friendlier to Israel than some of the Western European heavyweights such as France, might have increased. In other words, Merkel sabotaged Israel’s campaign to persuade European countries to relocate their embassies and the 3,000-year-old Jewish presence in Jerusalem.
The chancellor has also missed key opportunities to show solidarity with Israel and refute false claims by Muslim leaders that Jews have no ancient ties to the Holy Land.
Merkel has, however, followed through on the previous German government’s pledge to deliver Dolphin-class submarines to Israel. However, questions arose later about how many submarines Israel needed to procure. Israel purchased the advanced submarines, but at the same time, the sale produced controversy because the German manufacturer ThyssenKrupp still permits Iran’s regime to maintain a small percentage of the ownership in the engineering giant. As Deutsche Welle reported in 2016, “Iran to profit from Israel’s submarine deal with ThyssenKrupp.”
Reichelt also notes that Germany’s ambassador to the United Nations, Christoph Heusgen, has voted against Israel 13 times at the world body and only once against Iran’s regime. Heusgen previously served as Merkel’s national security adviser and worked behind Israel’s back to isolate it diplomatically as early as 2010.
Also in 2010, Heusgen as “a senior adviser to German chancellor Angela Merkel, urged the United States to water down its opposition to the U.N.’s anti-Israel “Goldstone Report,” which turned out to be false, based on disinformation, apparently in an effort to force Israel to freeze its settlement construction.
Israeli diplomats have complained about Heusgen over the years, but Merkel grants him wide latitude in international fora, possibly to placate public opinion in Muslim-majority countries.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center included Heusgen’s conduct on its top 10 list of worst outbreaks of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in 2019 for his steady bashing of Israel at the United Nations, where, in the Security Council he likened Israel to Hamas, a jihadi movement labeled a foreign terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
Merkel’s most egregious concessions to anti-Semites, however, are the result of her efforts to placate the religious dictatorship in Tehran. She has not, for instance, objected to her Social Democratic foreign minister, Heiko Maas, sending diplomats to the Iranian regime’s embassy in Berlin each year to celebrate the 1979 Islamic Revolution, where anti-Semitism was a core policy from day one.
The revolution, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, immediately targeted Persian Jews, including the 67-year-old businessman Habib Elghanian, accused of “treason through his connections with Israel and Zionism” and one of the first Iranians to be executed.
Merkel’s unstinting advocacy of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also displays an indifference to Tehran leaders’ constant genocidal threats to eradicate Israel. While Merkel and other advocates falsely insist that the deal will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capability, when the deal expires, Iran will be free to have as many “legitimate” nukes as it likes.
As problematic, the more than $100 billion in sanctions relief the ayatollahs are expected to receive in exchange for presumably unenforceable restrictions on their atomic weapons program will presumably be used, at least in part, to fund Iran’s militia, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as well as Iran’s terrorist proxies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, as well as their infiltration of Venezuela and other parts of South America.
Merkel’s chief concern seems to be Germany’s export business: not to curtail German engineering firms that use the European-Iranian trade bank (known by its German acronym, EIH) to conduct transactions.
In 2010, the Obama administration’s Treasury Department designated EIH for sanctions because, “As one of Iran’s few remaining access points to the European financial system, EIH has facilitated a tremendous volume of transactions for Iranian banks previously designated [blacklisted] for proliferation.”
The 2015 nuclear accord removed EIH from the sanctions list, and Merkel went back to business as usual—at the expense of Israel’s security.
Although in 2008, Merkel delivered a highly publicized speech to the Knesset, in which she told Israeli lawmakers the security of the Jewish state is “will never be open to negotiation” for German administrations and pledged that Iran’s regime would not secure nuclear weapons, her deference to Iran’s clerical rulers has continued.
A burning desire to head off a nuclear-armed Iranian regime does not appear to be on Merkel’s list of priorities. Merkel has even ignored the recent findings of her own intelligence agencies who noted that Iran’s regime sought technology for weapons of mass destruction in 2020.
To add meaning and content to Germany’s pledge to safeguard Israel’s security, Merkel and the next German government (elections are set for September) must end the federal republic’s unsavory romance with the Islamic Republic of Iran—the world’s leading state sponsor of Holocaust denial and lethal anti-Semitism.
Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.