Boring and uncharismatic, she was no Margaret Thatcher, 'yet deserves a Nobel'

October 02, 2021

Above: The Turkish government-supporting press didn't regard Angela Merkel as sufficiently anti-Kurdish



[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach four pieces in relation to this week's German elections which may be of interest to readers.



1. "Angela Merkel deserves the Nobel Prize for Peace: The departing German leader was no rebel, orator, or original thinker, but morally she was a giant" (By Amotz Asa-El, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 1, 2021)

2. "Making sense of German electorate's shift to the Left: Israel should not be under any delusion that the Social Democratic Party has its back" (By Benjamin Weinthal, Israel Hayom, Sept. 30, 2021)

3. "German election: Olaf Scholz would turn his back on America as chancellor, warns the head of the Bundestag's foreign affairs committee" (The Times of London, Oct. 1, 2021)

A friend of TG adds: If so, the ex-KGB staff running Russia must be amazed how easy it all was?

4. "German-Jewish leader welcomes downward trend of far-right party in Sunday's election" (European Jewish Press, Sept. 30, 2021)




Angela Merkel deserves the Nobel Prize for Peace
The departing German leader was no rebel, orator, or original thinker, but morally she was a giant.
By Amotz Asa-El
The Jerusalem Post
October 1, 2021

The assistant professorship that is any doctoral student's wish was one nod away from her when the future Angela Merkel (Kasner, at the time) was asked to double as an informant for the Stasi, East Germany's secret police.

The 24-year-old physicist, whose disdain for melodrama would later become legend, said no, but instead of adding a provocative statement just said: "I can't keep secrets."

It was 1978 and the Stasi's spooks could not imagine the real secret, that they were facing a united Germany's future matriarch and a post-communist Europe's undeclared queen.

Now, as her 16-year chancellorship draws to a close, Merkel is set to be remembered as a vestige of an era of optimism that was as brave and inspiring as it was brief and na?ve.

IRONICALLY, the East German revolution's poster girl was no revolutionary.

Yes, she told the Stasi no that day, but she joined no underground, made no active protest and never claimed to have braved Soviet repression the way Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Natan Sharansky, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Andrei Sakharov did.

Merkel was no rebel. Boring and uncharismatic, the East German lawmaker who became West German leader Helmut Kohl's briefcase holder was no firebrand or orator. She swept no audience off its feet and was no trigger-happy warrior, in any sense and on any front. She was no Margaret Thatcher.

She was also no exhibitionist. Merkel was no Willy Brandt, who fell on his knees in front of the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial, and she was no Ronald Reagan, who located his loud cry "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" at the foothills of the monstrosity that Merkel knew all too well.

Merkel was also no originator of ideas.

Unlike Otto von Bismarck, who created the modern social safety net; unlike Konrad Adenauer, who led the rise of New Germany and the emergence of the European Community and unlike Helmut Kohl, who spearheaded Germany's reunification, Merkel created little, focusing instead on the preservation of other people's legacies.

Yes, she was a great crisis manager. Faced with the Greek economic crisis, Merkel produced a deal that balanced economic prudence with European solidarity.

The result, enormous pain for the Greeks and a loss of billions for its creditors, was no idyll, but it kept the union alive, left its cracking currency intact, and consolidated Germany's position as Europe's center of gravity. At the same time, faced with the 2008 meltdown's shock she led the German economy to quick recovery at a minimal cost.

Meanwhile, faced with a newly assertive Russia's invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Merkel led with the US a vast international effort to sanction Moscow while keeping intact Nord Stream 2, a mega-project aimed at feeding Europe with Russian gas.

However, crisis management is one thing and shaping history is another.

IT WILL take decades to gauge her historic imprint, but right now it seems that the future's growing pressures were too heavy for Merkel's stubborn efforts to preserve the past.

At home, the political center steadily eroded under Merkel's watch.

The two major parties, which in the last election before her chancellorship won a combined 76% of the vote, shrank during her tenure to a combined 49.8%. The growth of radical parties was underscored by the emergence of the far-right Alternative for Germany, which did not exist before Merkel's arrival and has since come to grip a solid one-tenth of the electorate.

Abroad, the European Union, which under her predecessors gradually grew from six members to 28 shrank for the first time in its history, following Britain' departure. Meanwhile, the euro that she inherited from her predecessors was exposed during her chancellorship as a vulnerable currency of a disjointed polity.

Merkel's titanic effort to keep the EU and its currency intact was challenged not only by the imbalances between its richer north and poorer south, but also by the deepening chasm between its liberal West and conservative East.

The common denominator between these setbacks is not that they happened because of Merkel's mistakes, but that they happened despite her resistance.

Now, chances that the trends she defied will accelerate are higher than the chances that they will be offset. In fact, chances are Merkel will eventually loom not only as no Reagan, Adenauer or De Gaulle, but as a version of Franz Josef, the Hapsburg monarch whose 68-year reign of prosperity and seeming stability actually concealed a decaying empire's approaching demise.

Like the Austro-Hungarian Empire in its twilight, Merkel's European Union may have grown too big, too varied, and too loose to last; an optimistic era's utopia predestined to make way for the cynicism that was its aftermath.

It was between these two poles, the optimism that animated her political emergence and the pessimism that overshadows her departure, that Merkel made her career's one big move, when she opened her country's doors to more than a million Muslim refugees.

YES, it was a gamble that fueled xenophobia, sparked violence, and might ultimately prove to have accelerated the European Union's disintegration. And never mind that less than a decade since their arrival half of the new immigrants are already gainfully employed and paying taxes.

Even if this experiment proves to have been a social failure and a political disaster, morally speaking it was an act of humanity, generosity, humility, and nobility that no one before Merkel, from Thatcher and Reagan to Adenauer and Brandt, ever did; a gamble worthy of the unassuming scientist whose life at the free world's summit never made her forget her origins in dictatorship's despair.

That is why Angela Merkel deserves the Nobel Peace Prize more than all the leaders whose political gravitas she didn't possess, whose intellectual originality she didn't display, and whose historic imprint she didn't etch.



Making sense of German electorate's shift to the Left

Israel should not be under any delusion that the Social Democratic Party has its back. If anything, the slide to the Left, as it is being called in Germany, has serious implications for the Jewish state.

By Benjamin Weinthal
Israel Hayom
September 30, 2021

The composition of the next German government remains unclear but one thing is certain: With the Social Democratic Party (SPD) securing a victory over Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CSU) in the federal election, the country has undergone a Linksrutsch ? a "slide to the Left."

From the perspective of Israel's security and defense establishment, the prospect of a left-wing chancellor beholden to an increasingly anti-Israel base does not bode well. As head of the largest party, the SPD's Olaf Scholz has the best chance to replace Merkel after her nearly 16 years in office.

In May, Norbert Walter-Borjans, the co-chair of the Social Democrats, sought to crack the German schoolmaster whip on Israel with respect to arms transfers. Walter-Borjans comes from the radical wing of the party and suggested Berlin not to give a blank check to the Jewish state when it came to defending itself. To be fair, he did not urge the end of arms sales to Israel.

However, the calls from leading SPD politicians to clamp down on Israel continue to grow. "Germany must not deliver weapons to conflict areas and to dictators," said the SPD politician Ralf Stegner, adding, "What about Saudi Arabia? What about Qatar? I am also asking: What about Israel?"

Scholz declared to supporters on Sunday that the predicted election results represented "a very clear mandate to ensure now that we put together a good, pragmatic government for Germany." But it is hard to believe that he would be able to institute a pragmatic foreign policy toward Jerusalem in light of the widespread anti-Israel sentiment.

During the four years of coalition with Merkel's party, the SPD has aggressively targeted Israel with resolutions at the UN and sympathy for BDS.

Heiko Maas, the Social Democratic foreign minister who supposedly went into politics "because of Auschwitz," did not object when his ambassador to the United Nations Christoph Heusgen equated Israel to the jihadi terrorist movement Hamas at the Security Council. Heusgen's parallel secured him a spot on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's worst outbreaks of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism in 2019.

Andreas G?rgen, Maas's director-general for cultural affairs and communication, was included in the 2020 list for his advocacy of the BDS campaign targeting Israel.

Maas has green-lighted his diplomats celebrating, at Tehran's embassy in Berlin, the Islamic Revolution that ushered in the regime of Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979.

Maas is a zealous advocate for the Iran nuclear agreement and for trade with the Islamic republic. For example, the top German diplomat sent the foreign ministry's then-business director Miguel Berger to a conference to boost trade with Iran's regime in 2019.

Bjorn Stritzel, a journalist for Germany's largest newspaper, Bild, wrote at the time, "While the Tehran regime plays with fire, Germany is offering the mullahs a stage in Berlin! Yesterday, the Federal Foreign Office sent a business director [Berger] to a conference to give tips on how to cleverly bypass US sanctions against Iran. Every penny from the business deals that were initiated there [at the conference] flows directly into Tehran's terrorist coffers, with which the mullahs oppress their own people."

Maas has spouted the usual boilerplate language about countering Israel-related antisemitism in Germany, namely, that "there is no place for antisemitism" in the Federal Republic. He employed this type of condemnation when German Christians and German Muslims burned Israeli flags after the US relocated its embassy to Jerusalem.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the president of Germany and a fellow Social Democrat, triggered international headlines when he infamously sent a telegram on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution to Iran's then-President Hassan Rouhani, congratulating the clerical regime "in the name" of the German people. On a side note, who still sends telegrams?

Maas's predecessor as foreign minister, the Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel, reiterated his description of Israel as an "apartheid regime" in 2018 and belittled the Holocaust. Gabriel claimed that Social Democrats suffered the same persecution and fate as Jews during the Nazi period ? an assertion that is demonstrably false.

Perhaps most troubling for Israel, the next generation of the Social Democratic Party is hostile to Israel. The Jusos, the party's youth movement, tends to produce future chancellors and members of parliament.

The Jusos, SPD supporters aged 14-35, passed a resolution in 2020 declaring solidarity with the youth wing of Fatah, the main faction of the PLO, as a "sister organization."

Fatah Youth opposes Israel's existence. In one illustration of this, Fatah Youth members wore fake explosive belts and chanted slogans calling for Israel's destruction at a demonstration in the West Bank in 2018.

The main threats to Israel's security, from Iran's regime to its chief proxy Hezbollah to Hamas, have nothing to fear from any SPD effort to counter their growth and strength in the Middle East.

Israel should not be under any delusion that the SPD has its back.

To recall an example from the past, when Israel was on the ropes during the Yom Kippur War, and to the acute frustration of President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, then SPD Chancellor Willy Brandt stuck to an ironclad "neutral position toward the conflict in the Middle East." The US sought to use the German port of Bremerhaven to deliver weapons to the Israelis. Brandt demanded an immediate halt to Americans loading freighters under the Israeli flag in the port.

Brandt had previously declared Germany would show solidarity with Israel and that there could be "no neutrality of the heart."

The shift leftward, the slide to the Left as it is being called in Germany, has serious implications for Israel.



German election: Olaf Scholz would turn his back on America as chancellor, warns critic
By Oliver Moody, Berlin
The Times (of London)
October 1 2021

Germany's standing in the West will be damaged if Olaf Scholz becomes chancellor because of his left-wing party's reluctance to keep US nuclear weapons on German soil or stand up to Russia and China, the head of the Bundestag's foreign affairs committee has warned.

Scholz, 63, the finance minister and strongest contender to be the country's next leader, is trying to build a ruling coalition with the Greens and the economically liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) after a narrow victory in last week's general election by his centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).

He has yet to set out his foreign policy goals in detail. However, SDP leaders have called for Germany to be "decoupled" from America and urged Washington to remove its nuclear weapons from the country.

Norbert R?ttgen, the leading foreign affairs expert from the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said he was "really worried" that Germany's role on the international stage would be diminished under Scholz.

R?ttgen, 56, represents a rival party to the SPD but has made a name as an independent-minded thinker on foreign policy, occasionally taking issue with Angela Merkel's decisions.

He said that the balance of power in the European Union could shift from Berlin to Paris as an SPD-led government would fall into step behind President Macron, who has described Nato as "brain-dead" and set out an ambition to distance the bloc from Washington in strategic terms.

"There will be concerns in Washington and Nato about whether [the SPD] talks about 'Europeanisation' in the sense of a retreat from Nato and the transatlantic partnership," R?ttgen said. "They will attentively observe whether this results in a policy that quite strongly adopts the language and ideas of the French president."

Foreign policy scarcely figured in the German election campaign but is now taking on greater significance as the country's allies look to Berlin to take a more assertive role in Europe and the wider world.

Among the potential flashpoints is Germany's commitment as a Nato member to spend 2 per cent of its GDP on defence. The budget has risen under Merkel's chancellorship to 1.57 per cent, with Scholz's approval, but both the SPD and the Greens have signalled an unwillingness to go any further.

Last year Rolf M?tzenich, 62, the SPD's leader in the Bundestag, described the target as an arbitrarily fixed percentage and a "dance around the golden calf".

M?tzenich and the party's two national leaders have demanded that the US withdraw about 20 atomic weapons stationed at the B?chel airbase in southwest Germany, an emblem of the American "nuclear umbrella" shielding Europe.

The SPD has also blocked several attempts to upgrade Germany's military capabilities, including an order for armed drones to defend soldiers on the battlefield.

"I don't think you'll hear from the SPD that [our international responsibilities] include a tougher collective approach to Russia and China," R?ttgen said.

"Nor can I imagine that the SPD will stand up for closer co-operation with our European partners or agreeing a common military component. The SPD categorically rejects everything that our neighbours understand by greater responsibility: more resources, more money, more readiness to take risks."

R?ttgen's CDU is smarting from the worst general election defeat in its history after falling nearly nine points to 24.1 per cent of the vote.

Armin Laschet, 60, the party leader, is fighting for his political survival amid speculation that he could be ousted in the coming weeks. This week Ellen Demuth, 39, who was R?ttgen's running mate when he stood unsuccessfully against Laschet for the CDU leadership earlier this year, was one of the first figures in the CDU to call for Laschet to resign.

A poll published today by ARD, a public broadcaster, found that 66 per cent of Germans and 60 per cent of CDU voters agreed with her.

Several sources in German conservative circles have suggested that R?ttgen, one of the most prominent figures on the CDU's centrist wing, could enter the fray if Laschet is deposed. They also named Ralph Brinkhaus, 53, the party's leader in the Bundestag, Jens Spahn, 41, the health minister, and Andreas Jung, 46, a senior MP, as possible contenders.

However, R?ttgen said that Laschet should stay on for the coalition talks and said this was "no time for personal ambitions".

"Back in February 2020 I justified my run for the leadership by pointing out that the CDU needs to be renewed and must once again hold its own as a modern [party of the] centre," he said. "The election result has underlined this imperative and made it inevitable."



German-Jewish leader welcomes downward trend of far-right party in election
By Yossi Lempkowicz
European Jewish Press
September 29, 2021

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, has expressed relief over the downward trend for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in Sunday's federal election.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) headed by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has emerged as the victor of the election. The center-left party secured 25.7 percent of the vote, overtaking Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) by 1.6 percent. The election marked the defeated conclusion of the Merkel era as her party has suffered a devastating electoral loss of 8.9 points since the 2017 election.

AfD now holds the fifth place at 10.3 percent with a loss of 2 points since 2017, down from the third place which is now taken by the Greens who achieved the best result in their history with 14.8 percent. The liberal FDP party improved to 11.5 percent. The Left Party fell to 4.9 percent. Because it won three direct mandates, it will nevertheless enter the Bundestag with the strength of a parliamentary group.

Schuster said that the AfD's double-digit performance in the federal election ''was a clear signal that the fight against right-wing populism and right-wing extremism must be stepped up.'' ''It must remain the goal of all democrats to banish the AfD from the Bundestag and from all state parliaments,'' he said.

The president of the Central Council of Jews, which is the government-funded umbrella Jewish representative body, criticized the fact that in the Bundestag (the federal parliament) election campaign the important social issues such as combating anti-Semitism, racism and right-wing extremism had played a subordinate role. "All the more reason for the new federal government ? regardless of its composition ? to quickly address this challenge. This also includes a more comprehensive fight against hate speech on the Internet,'' he said.

"Strengthening the foundation of our democracy again and stopping radicalization on the right-wing fringe is an urgent task for the new government coalition."

The parties have stated the coalition negotiation phase, often a painstaking and months-long process. While Scholz's party received the most votes, CDU's Armin Laschet has not ruled out replacing his predecessor as Chancellor. The FdP and the Greens enjoy the position of "king-makers" and could thus influence the direction of the traditional "Grand Coalition" of CDU and SPD.

What is considered as the "established" Jewish community has largely favored the CDU to lead Germany, but many Jewish activists have criticized the government's insistence on maintaining strong business and diplomatic ties with the Iranian regime under SPD's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

The FdP solidified its pro-Israel credential when it introduced a parliamentary motion to change Germany's anti-Israel voting patterns in the United Nations, a measure supported only by the AfD, which is considered by some Jews as the most pro-Israel party in the German parliament.


Rafael Korenzecher, publisher of the conservative Germany Jewish monthly, J?dische Rundschau, totally disagree with Josef Schuster when it comes to the AfD's rejection by the "Jewish establishment."

Recently, about 60 Jewish organizations issued a statement asking Jews not to vote for the AfD, calling it an anti-Semitic and racist party. The AfD is the only party to oppose Merkel's Muslim immigration.

During Merkel's last term, AfD introduced anti-BDS and anti-Hezbollah legislation in the German parliament and voted in favor of an FDP motion to change Germany's anti-Israel voting pattern in the United Nations. It was the only party to abstain from a parliamentary motion condemning any Israeli plan to apply sovereignty to Jewish communities Judea and Samaria.

"The AfD clearly has right-wing problems in the expressions of some of their politicians and that cannot be overlooked," says Korenzencher. "It's not tailor-made nor our desired child, but this is what we got if we look at the other parties and their behavior towards Israel and their true behavior towards the Jews."


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All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.