No change after German Angela Merkel vote

By Alexander Hasgall, September 24, 2013
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The results of yesterday’s election in Germany can be summarised quickly: as far as Israel and the Jews are concerned, nothing will change.

On Israel, there are only small differences between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s victorious party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), and the SPD, with whom she is likely to seek a governing coalition. With both, Germany will remain one of the closest allies of Israel in Europe.

Even if Ms Merkel builds a coalition with the Green Party — which is unlikely — not much will change.

The Greens, like the SPD and several other political groups in Europe, have an increasingly critical attitude towards Israeli policy in the West Bank. However, they are interested in mantaining relatively good relations with Jewish state.

If, as is more likely, we are left with a tie-up between the CDU and the SPD — as there was from 2005 to 2009 — the result will be a carbon copy of that government, perhaps even with the same foreign minister.

When it comes to Jewish life in Germany, no big changes should be expected. Official Jewish bodies and the government work together closely, and this will not change quickly.

However, there are unresolved issues to be dealt with. Around 80 per cent of the Jews left in Germany after the war migrated to the former Soviet Union. Many of them are now asking for dual citizenship, a demand which Ms Merkel has refused. In addition, civil society groups do not enjoy consistent funding from the state as they struggle against antisemitism and other forms of intolerance.

The election night led to another surprise. The AfD (Alternative for Germany), a right wing populist party, failed to put any MPs into into the Bundestag. AfD based their campaign on a demand for Germany to leave the Eurozone. This is remarkable: Germany is one of the few countries in Europe without a successful populist party in the parliament. Having AfD in parliament would have sent a negative signal to religious and ethnic minorities in the country.

Whatever the next government looks like, it will face major challenges. Taking into account the raise of extremist and antisemitic groups in other European countries — particularly in Greece — Germany has to assume a more active and less egotistical role on the continent. The people gave Ms Merkel a significant gift of trust. Time will tell how she uses it.

Alexander Hasgall is a political analyst based in Germany

Last updated: 4:45pm, September 24 2013