Israel welcomes Germany’s Angela Merkel’s re-election, voices concern regarding AfD

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the re-election of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In a festive new year’s toast at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem last night, Netanyahu made an analogy between Merkel’s fourth victory with his own fourth term as Israel’s leader, saying “it hints to a future fifth term in office,” while declaring the German leader as a great friend of the Jewish state. He said, “We have many friends. Another friend, Angela Merkel has just won the German government elections. It is good that someone wins for the fourth time, it is a sign for the fifth,” the Israeli leader said.

While Israel’s leadership voiced joy with the re-election of Chancellor Merkel, some of the Israeli minister voiced concern with the rise of the German far-right AfD party. Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked stressed she hoped “the German people learned carefully the history” of their country “and remember the Holocaust and all the reasons that led to this tragedy.” I want to congratulate Chancellor Angela Merkel, Merkel is a great friend of Israel and one of the biggest leaders of the free world. And also, I hope that the good cooperation between the government of Israel and the government of Germany will continue,” Minister Shaked said, while noting with regard to the entry of the far-right AfD party into the German parliament that  “Usually we are not interfering in internal politics of other countries but I can say that, you know, as the minister of justice of the Jewish people, I can say that I hope that the German people learn carefully the history of Germany and remember the Holocaust and all the, I would say, reasons that led to this tragedy in the history.”

The German far-right AfD party shocked the establishment by winning 12.6 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election after a campaign that channeled public anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to leave Germany’s borders open to migrants. The perceived victory of the AfD party has raised Alarm among Germany’s minorities, including Jews and Muslims, whom are concerned of the strong anti-immigration and minorities positions voiced by the far-right faction. That said, the President of the Central Council of Jews in German stressed that while the ‘surprising’ entry of the AfD into parliament shocked the country, it is important to point to the 87 percent of voters supporting – what he defined as: “Germany’s democratic parties.” President Josef Schuster said, “For the Jewish life, it is a turning point in so far as it is the first time that not only a right-wing populist party has entered (parliament), but a party which, in its presumable future mandates, also has people who do not shy away from right-wing extremist positions in their agenda. And if they are agitating against minorities today, against Muslims, then I’m worried that if it’s no longer opportunistic to agitate against Muslims, other minorities will be targeted, also Jews.” Schuster added that “At the moment, the Central Council of the Jews has neither made a positive or a negative stand against the AfD. We will also closely monitor the work of the elected representatives and will not shy away from expressing criticism accordingly. On the other hand, and that is important to me, 87 per cent of the voters have elected the democratic parties, and I think we would do well to not only occupy ourselves with the AfD so as not to upgrade them in the media,” the Jewish council head noted.

Germany regards itself as one of Israel’s closest allies with extensive cooperation and trade links. However, the legacy of the Nazi-era Holocaust, in which six million Jews were murdered during World War Two, keeps relations between Berlin and Jerusalem highly charged. The reality in which the heinous acts of the Holocaust and the 12 years of Nazi-power have frequently been a reminder of Germany’s dark history, the AfD party declares that it was due time to stop using the country’s terrible history as a political chip with Berlin, as it does not relate to German identity nowadays. Alexander Gauland, a senior member of the AfD party said earlier this month in a rally, “Yes: We have dealt with the crimes of those 12 years and dear friends if I look around Europe, no other people has dealt as clearly with their past wrongs as the Germans, people no longer need to reproach us with these 12 years – they don’t relate to our identity nowadays and we are prepared to say so,” he declared.

While the AfD has already announced it would continue its work from the country’s opposition, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that she will start coalition talks with the FDP faction, the Greens and also – even though it lost and already declared its move to the opposition – Merkel expects to negotiate with the liberal center-left SPD party, to seek – what she defined as – a stable and good government.