Westerwelle buries the hatchet in Israel

Guido Westerwelle is currently visiting Israel for his first official trip as Foreign Minister. His last visit, in 2002, didn’t go so well: Westerwelle’s trip follows another he made to the region in May 2002 when he was criticized by top Israeli politicians for failing to condemn anti-Israeli comments by his FDP party deputy, Juergen ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
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576379_091123_westerwelle2.jpg
JERUSALEM - NOVEMBER 23: German Foreign Minister Dr. Guido Westerwelle wears a Jewish yarmulka in the Hall of Remembrances at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, after he laid a wreath in memory of the six million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis, on November 23, 2009 in Jerusalem, Israel. Westerwelle also visited the Holocaust History Museum and the Children's Memorial on his first visit to Yad Vashem since taking office. (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)

Guido Westerwelle is currently visiting Israel for his first official trip as Foreign Minister. His last visit, in 2002, didn't go so well:

Westerwelle's trip follows another he made to the region in May 2002 when he was criticized by top Israeli politicians for failing to condemn anti-Israeli comments by his FDP party deputy, Juergen Moellemann.

Guido Westerwelle is currently visiting Israel for his first official trip as Foreign Minister. His last visit, in 2002, didn’t go so well:

Westerwelle’s trip follows another he made to the region in May 2002 when he was criticized by top Israeli politicians for failing to condemn anti-Israeli comments by his FDP party deputy, Juergen Moellemann.

Moellemann had sympathized openly with Palestinian suicide bombers and had invited Green party member Jamal Karsli, who had expressed anti-Israeli sentiments, to join the FDP.

Moelleman had angered Germany’s the Jewish community — a taboo if there ever was one, for German politicians — by voicing support for Palestinian suicide bombers and accusing German Jewish leader Michel Friedman of contributing to anti-Semitism. Westerwelle’s response to the controversy didn’t exactly help:

Westerwelle said that Friedmann had “no higher moral authority” in the debate. When asked about his position on Germany’s Nazi past during a visit to Israel, Westerwelle said: “We want to ask questions in a different way and answer them differently.” He neglected to explain what he meant.

In response, Westerwelle endured the public criticism of Sharon during a joint press conference. 

Westerwelle has changed his tune since then, emphasizing Germany’s “special responsibility” to Israel as he tured Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem this week. Hardline Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was also the first of Westerwelle’s counterparts to call to congratulate him on his appointment. It seems possible that Westerwelle’s visit was a way for Angela Merkel’s new foreign minister to bury the hatchet with the Israel’s before she meets with Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin next week. 

David Silverman/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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