The conservative daily Die Welt, the newspaper closest to Chancellor Merkel, interviewed Netanyahu at length and gave the Israeli prime minister space to make a full and eloquent defense of Israel’s position. Like Merkel, the Die Welt journalists registered their regret over expansion of “settlements,” but in the context of softball questions. All this praising by faint damn is of great help to Netanyahu.
What explains Chancellor Merkel’s sympathy towards Israel? Part of it is simple righteousness. Mrs. Merkel rose through the democracy movement in East Germany during the last years of the Cold War — she speaks Russian with Vladimir Putin — and came to believe in democracy the hard way. Second, the German chancellor is a righteous Gentile who believes that Germany has a special obligation to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. She has demonstrated this again and again, for example, by intervening to insure that b’rit milah — Jewish ritual circumcision– remained legal in Germany despite attempts to prohibit it. And third — and in this case most important — Mrs. Merkel is a practical woman of high intelligence, trained as a scientist and toughened by years in political life. She has no patience with Obama’s utopianism.
Germany is changing. Its economy is doing reasonably well despite the European recession, because it is exporting more to Eastern Europe, Russia and China. A recent opinion poll asked Germans to name the world’s most important economy. Sixty percent said China and only 30% said the United States. As Germany acts in its own economic interests in the absence of American leadership, it will continue to gravitate towards strong and vibrant countries such as Israel and disengage from hopeless losers like Spain — or the Arabs. Nothing succeeds like success, and Israel’s reception by the practical Mrs. Merkel is further proof of its standing in the world. A lot of things will change in the next couple of years. I just don’t know whether we’ll hear about them here in the United States.