BERLIN (JTA) — Israeli leaders congratulated German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her re-election but her likely foreign minister was causing reservations.
Free Democratic Party leader Guido Westerwelle, who would replace Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the ousted Social Democratic Party, is a worrisome factor for some given his party’s reputation for criticizing Germany’s pro-Israel policies.
In national elections Sunday, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party retained its leading position with 33.8 percent of the vote. Talks for the appointment of new ministers and adoption of a coalition platform will begin next week.
Merkel’s previous coalition partner, the Social Democrats, won 23 percent — its worst showing since World War II. This enabled Merkel to forge a new coalition with her preferred partner, the Free Democrats.
Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told reporters that he would have preferred to see the former coalition stay in power, but added that the Central Council has good relations with all the democratic parties.
In the 2002 national election, a leader of the Free Democrats — the late Juergen Moelleman — used anti-Israel propaganda that many also viewed as anti-Semitic. The tactic failed miserably, but it took too long for Westerwelle to condemn it, some said at the time.
Westerwelle’s party garnered 14.6 percent of the vote and claimed the No. 2 position. The Green Party received 10.7 percent of the vote, while the Left Party, with 11.9 percent, saw itself as one of the winners.
Joss Levi, a spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Tuesday that Merkel had proved a true friend to Israel, and that her re-election had been
greeted in Jerusalem with “great optimism,” according to the dpa German press agency.
“There is a broad consensus that the good days of the German-Israel relationship will continue, or even improve,” Levi said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman congratulated Merkel on Monday evening, noting her “deep friendship to Israel, impressive sensitivity toward the past and the reliability of her commitment to the special relationship between our two countries and our two peoples.”