PARTNER ATLAS

ISRAEL

As a partner for strengthening a values and rules-based world order

01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas

RELEVANCE: What relevance does Israel have for Germany with regards to "strengthening a values and rules-based world order"?

Germany and Israel maintain a close partnership based on common interests and shared values. The starting point for this special relationship and Germany’s acknowledgement of historical responsibility was the caesura of the Shoa. The way that the two statesmen Konrad Adenauer and David Ben-Gurion laid the foundation for these relations was described by former Bundestag President Norbert Lammert in a speech before the Knesset in 2015 as a “double stroke of historical luck”.

Israel’s immense relevance for Germany was expressed by former Chancellor Angela Merkel, who cited the matter of Israel’s security as “part of the German reason of state”. The special relations – and the bond brought about by shared values – take the form of cooperation between the two countries at various national, regional and local levels as well as in the areas of politics, business, civil society, science and culture – and simply in countless encounters between individuals. Furthermore, both countries resolutely stand up to anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Europe and throughout the world. The 1,700th anniversary of documented Jewish life on German soil was celebrated in 2021, marking a milestone in Jewish-German history.

WILLINGNESS: To what extent is Tunisia willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?

The Middle East conflict between Israelis and Palestinians puts lasting pressure on this partnership, predicated as it is on a world order based on the rule of law and shared values. Berlin demands compliance with the standards of international law and actively advocates for a negotiated solution to the conflict on the basis of the Oslo Accords (two-state solution). But this position lacks majority support in large parts of Israel, a fact that has repeatedly sparked tensions between the two countries, particularly during Benjamin Netanyahu’s years in government. 

Nevertheless, the Merkel era in particular was marked by close and friendly relations – right up to the end. On the Chancellor’s last visit to Israel, acting Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett even called her the “moral compass of Europe”. Bennett thus sent a clear signal to her successor to carry on her policies. 

Positive changes are also emerging with regard to relations between Israel and the EU. With his inaugural visit to Brussels in June 2021, Israeli Foreign Minister Jair Lapid showed a willingness to move closer to the EU again. The EU has been faced with Israeli accusations that it does not take sufficient consideration of the country’s interests and security, especially vis-à-vis the Palestinians and violent terrorist groups. Jerusalem is therefore counting on Berlin to exert an influence in Brussels. Germany, for its part, is constantly striving as a partner in the EU to drive forward the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, while advocating within the framework of international organisations for dealing fairly with the parties to the Middle East conflict.

STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and Tunisia's current cooperation in this area?

In 2008, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, regular bilateral intergovernmental consultations were launched. This is an instrument that closely links the two countries in diverse working areas.

The existing partnership of values between Germany and Israel is manifested in numerous fields. Both countries are solid democracies and share a commitment to the rule of law and a market economy. They work together closely in the areas of democratic resilience, innovation and digitalisation, education and science, and cyber advances. Moreover, they both advocate for liberal culture and media as an expression of free and pluralistic societies. Germany’s commitment to Israel’s security is reflected by increasing cooperation in this field, especially in the area of high-tech defence projects. Israel is a central pillar of German foreign policy as well as a linchpin for its policy in the region. Germany supports Israel’s security through diplomacy and dialogue formats, with the goal of achieving a regional peace settlement.

POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and Tunisia in this area?

The change of government in Israel in 2021 and its signals conveying the desire for rapprochement with Germany and the EU show that new potential for cooperation can be tapped at a high political level. 

In terms of promoting democracy, there is scope for even closer cooperation in the area of the rule of law. And Germany can learn a great deal from Israel when it comes to innovation and digitalisation. Under the catchwords “Big Data” and “Industry 4.0”, a wealth of Israeli expertise is available that Germany would do well to take advantage of. This also applies to Israel’s flourishing start-up culture. In the areas of trade and technology, both sides can benefit from increased cooperation. In addition to the already existing close collaboration in education and science, the field of youth exchange likewise presents interesting opportunities. 

In security terms, Israel remains a constant in German Middle East policy. This is due not least to the considerable congruence of interests between the two states when it comes to containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions – although there seems to be some disagreement on how to achieve that goal.

POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?

A values-based foreign policy fundamentally stands for peace, security, stability and sustainable development. With regard to Israel, therefore, the negotiated two-state solution should be upheld and an erosion of the peace process prevented (e.g., through further so-called “cloverleaf” initiatives and the Middle East Quartet, pushing for reforms of the Oslo Accords, struggling for democracy and reforms in the Palestinian territories). As long as no immediate solution is in sight, pragmatic approaches to cooperation – alternative projects that can have a peace-making, equalising and stabilising effect – and active promotion of peace initiatives with regional neighbours should continue. Berlin must define its interests in the region consistently and precisely and take advantage of its international standing to work for peace between Israel and its neighbours. The wait-and-see role of observer adopted for example in the case of the Abraham Accords should in future make way for the role of active and resolute interlocutor and mediator. At the same time, close cooperation with the USA and building further trust between Israel and the EU will remain vital. Israel’s reserved reactions to the Russian invasion of Ukraine show that interests based on realpolitik guide Israeli foreign policy in some areas. Israel relies on extensive security coordination with Russia, which has ground troops in Syria, and has therefore held back on imposing harsh sanctions. 

German foreign policy in the region continues to be dominated by the issue of Iran, while Israel has commented critically on international attempts to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement. The trouble spots in the Middle East will remain, and regional (military) alliances will only increase. Here, Germany would be well advised to step up and assume the “greater responsibility” that has long demanded with a view to conflict management and mediation. In this regard, joint initiatives and new dialogue formats in cooperation with France as a partner in values are another field worth pursuing.

Climate and environmental policy could be an attractive vehicle for Germany when pushing for regional integration. Jordan and Israel already signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2021 (the so-called “Water-Energy Deal”), demonstrating that environmental and climate problems can only be solved through united efforts and that this endeavour can promote peace. As it strives to take the lead in dealing with climate change, Germany can tap into and expand on this potential for regional integration and normalisation.

Political foundations and other German intermediary organisations active in the region should in particular be called into play more consistently in future as complementary instruments of foreign, economic and cultural policy. 

Dr. Beatrice Gorawantschy is the director of the KAS office in Israel
Philipp Paul Burkhardt is research associate at the KAS office in Israel.

  • Interest: Strengthening a Values and Rules-based World Order
  • Region: The Middle East and North Africa

02 — Foreign Office

Contact:

Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V.
Auslandsbüro Israel
Rabbi Akiva Street 8, PO Box 7968
9107901 Jerusalem

03 — The region

The Middle East and North Africa

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MOROCCO

In recent years, Morocco has become an important partner for Germany with respect to migration issues. On the one hand, the Kingdom has assumed a special role within the African Union (AU) and the international community; on the other hand, it is itself one of the countries where migration is taking place in varying ways. In February 2019, Morocco presented a new migration policy for Africa at the AU and highlighted the prospect of development through migration. The new policy places particular emphasis on the fact that migration is not a security problem, and that there is, primarily, a need to combat the root causes of migration and flight.

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QATAR

Qatar, the second-smallest country in the Arab Gulf region (where Qatari citizens make up less than 15 percent of the total population), is located in a neighbourhood where fear of the hegemonic ambitions of larger states persists, as does the memory of the blockade imposed on the country by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt from 2017 to 2021. Against this backdrop, Qatar has spun a web of foreign policy alliances meant to ensure the emirate territorial security as well as greater geopolitical influence – a web of what are in fact contradictory alliances.

  • Population: 2.982.124
  • Capital: Doha
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ISRAEL

Germany and Israel maintain a close partnership based on common interests and shared values. The starting point for this special relationship and Germany’s acknowledgement of historical responsibility was the caesura of the Shoa. The way that the two statesmen Konrad Adenauer and David Ben-Gurion laid the foundation for these relations was described by former Bundestag President Norbert Lammert in a speech before the Knesset in 2015 as a “double stroke of historical luck”. 

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JORDAN

Jordan has been considered an anchor of stability at least since the Arab Spring, which shook many countries in the region to their foundations. Maintaining this stability is of paramount interest to German foreign policy.

  • Population: 10.402.753
  • Capital: Amman
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LIBYA

Although Libya is the fourth-largest country on the African continent, is located in the direct vicinity of Europe and is rich in natural resources, it has so far played quite a minor role as a German trading partner, apart from Germany’s substantial imports of oil. This is understandable in view of how power struggles among various factions plunged the country into chaos after the fall of Muammar Al-Gaddafi in 2011, resulting in several civil wars and laying waste to nearly all sectors of the economy.

  • Population: 7.056.971
  • Capital: Tripolis
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SAUDI ARABIA

The relevance of Saudi Arabia for Germany’s economic interests results from the country’s fundamental importance for stability and development in the Near and Middle East, its efforts to modernise and diversify its economy, as well as its oil wealth.

  • Population: 34,813,871
  • Capital: Riyadh
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IRAQ

Iraq has the world’s fifth largest oil and twelfth largest natural gas reserves. The country is a founding member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and, in recent years, has become its second largest producer. The Iraqi government is considering to expand the oil and gas sector in the coming years, thereby increasing production capacities even more, although experts as well as members of the government call for diversifying the Iraqi economic and energy sector.

  • Population: 40,263,275
  • Capital: Bagdad
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ALGERIA

As the largest country in Africa in terms of land area, linking the MENA region and the Sahel zone and as an immediate neighbour, Algeria has a natural relevance for Germany and Europe. The army enjoys a high status as an institution and defense spending is stable at 6% of GDP.

  • Population: 43,886,707
  • Capital: Alger
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TUNISIA

In many respects, Tunisia plays a special role in the MENA region. As Europe’s direct neighbour, trade, migrant workers and close political relations have left a strong European imprint on Tunisian society. Secularisation and modernisation have shaped Tunisia’s policies since independence and continue to have an impact today.

  • Population: 11,824128
  • Capital: Tunis
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MOROCCO

Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the northern edge of the Sahara, the Kingdom of Morocco is highly vulnerable to climate change and its negative consequences. The country put the issue on its own agenda early on and drafted ambitious plans. In 2016, Marrakech hosted the 22nd United Nations Climate Conference (COP22). Today, Morocco has even become a regional leader in the areas of climate protection and sustainability.

  • Population: 36,930,188
  • Capital: Rabat
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