Former German envoys urge tough Israel stance

BERLIN (JTA) — Twenty-four ex-German ambassadors have urged the country’s chancellor and new foreign minister to be tougher on Israel.

In a letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel and Guido Westerwelle, the envoys also said that Hamas, which rejects Israel’s right to exist, must be included in the "political process."

The pro-Israel German-Israel Society in response accused the ambassadors of "overlooking or outright denying facts."

Germany is widely viewed as being Israel’s strongest supporter in Europe, but observers have long suggested that a gap is growing between popular sentiment and official policy.

Perhaps reflecting the gap, the former ambassadors said in their letter that the "unforeseen risks" to the rest of the world due to the ongoing conflict outweighed concerns — "no longer taken seriously" — that a Palestinian state would be a "threat to the existence of Israel."

The former ambassador to Jordan, Martin Schneller, initiated the campaign. 

"Israel cannot expect to secure peace while holding onto Palestinian territories," the group said in the letter, according to the daily newspaper Suddeutschen Zeitung.

In the letter, which was shared this week with the German news media, the envoys urged pressure on both sides. None of the signing diplomats has served in Israel.

The diplomats recognized Germany’s "historical legacy" to protect Israel. They said, however, that security cannot be won "through occupation and settlement, nor by relying on military superiority," but rather "through withdrawal from occupied areas, followed by the establishment of a Palestinian state."

In his response issued Wednesday, Johannes Gerster, president of the German-Israeli Society, angrily reminded the ambassadors that "after Israel withdrew from Lebanon and then from Gaza, the rocket attacks on Israel increased like an avalanche. The writers of this letter omit the fact that the fundamentalists aim to destroy Israel no matter what, even after the return of occupied lands."
 

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