On the occasion of German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s third trip to the Middle East since 7 October 2023, the day described by ARD journalist Georg Schwarte as an Israeli “Zeitenwende”, one has the opportunity to analyze Germany’s current position in the Middle East conflict. The Foreign Minister’s constant divergence, which is always trying to establish shades of grey in an increasingly polarized international debate, illustrates the ambivalent “dilemma” management that currently also reflects the multi-layered domestic situation in Germany.[1]

Germany’s current Foreign Policy on the Gaza Conflict

Chancellor Scholz who had already visited Tel Aviv before US-President Biden, represents an indication of the special relationship between the two states. In his speech, Scholz emphasized the extraordinary responsibility that Germany has towards Israel’s state security due to the Nazi dictator’s Holocaust. He underlined this by saying that this was “German reason of state”.[2] This is an expression that is unique in German foreign policy and is a firmly accepted part of the general German political understanding, as German chancellor Angela Merkel used the same words while speaking in front of the Knesset in 2008. The German government stated that it would continue to advocate a negotiated two-state solution. However, it seems like the protection of Israel’s internal security is currently the more pressing issue. The government representative also emphasized that Hamas’ attack on Israel should be recognized as the reason for the conflict. Accordingly, the German government continues to publicly express unanimous support for Israel’s ongoing offensive in the Gaza Strip.[3] Foreign Minister Baerbock made it clear that she understood the demands for a ceasefire in the face of a humanitarian catastrophe. However, according to the Federal Minister, this would be too short-sighted in terms of guaranteeing Israel’s security and the situation of the hostages being held. She is therefore calling for humanitarian windows to enable aid to be provided to civilians.[4] At a meeting of EU foreign ministers on 23 October 2023, Germany was among those that ensured that a declaration for “humanitarian pauses” was not enforced. After US Secretary of State Blinken publicly called for one, there was a change of attitude in Germany. As a result, Baerbock herself ultimately argued in favor of “humanitarian windows” at the UN Security Council in New York. When a consensus was reached within the framework of the EU Leaders, it was also Chancellor Scholz who prevented any talk of a “cease fire”.[5]

In public, Germany supports Israel’s proclaimed counter-offensive while also mentioning that Israel must comply with international law. In contrast to UN reports, which accuse Israel of numerous violations of the laws of war and international law, Germany has so far not named any such offenses and invokes Israel’s right to self-defense. In general, it should be emphasized that Germany has so far abstained from voting on UN resolutions relating to the Israel-Hamas war mainly because the Hamas attack of 7 October was not condemned. Germany also abstained from voting on the UN resolution on a general humanitarian ceasefire of 12 December 2023. The justification for this repeatedly reflects the apparent moral dilemma that the German state has imposed on itself. The Federal Foreign Office published a statement on the social media platform “X”, according to which the ultimately successful resolution would not mention why Israel was forced to defend itself. It also failed to add that the destruction of the state of Israel would remain Hamas’ goal.[6] However, due to the civilian suffering of the Palestinian population, it would abstain from this resolution.

Bild, tabloid newspaper with the largest media reach in the country, recently reacted to the abstention by saying that Germany had let Israel down “once again”.[7] In other words, there was a significant current of opinion in Germany that the bombing of the Gaza Strip should be supported at all costs with regard to Israel’s state security. Germany’s abstention at the UN and simultaneous verbal restraint towards Netanyahu’s war cabinet can be interpreted as evidence that the government in Berlin is very critical of the IDF’s actions in the Gaza Strip. However, a clearer stance, which is not characterized by probing on both sides and is currently referred to as a “policy of small steps”[8], could be seen in important circles in Germany and Israel as a breach of the principle of “reason of state”. The fear of giving the measurable rise in anti-Semitism a state boost is great. Journalist John Kampfner adds to this German domestic political reality in the Guardian that the historically justified orientation towards Israel is in the process of becoming a foreign policy “straitjacket”.[9]  The conflict remains so flexible to this day that the German state can hardly contribute to a sustainable political perspective between Israel and Palestine with an irretrievable stance. Meanwhile, Germany could play an important role in international understanding and conflict resolution precisely because of its history.


The influence of the Middle East conflict on the internal security of Germany since the 7th of October 2023

The exact meaning of the terminology “reason of State”, in German language “Staatsräson”, was controversially discussed in the public debates. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck felt compelled to make a statement and published a much-noticed video message in which he describes the founding of Israel as a promise of protection for Jewish life, which Germany is obliged to help keep due to its historical responsibility. He also spoke of an “entrenched” anti-Semitism in the extreme right and left political spectrum. According to the Federal Minister, this is also expressed in the numerous pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which, according to him, are not forbidden, contrary to what would often be claimed.[10]Top of Form In contrast, Germany was criticized by countries such as Qatar, Libya, and Egypt as part of a regular review of the human rights situation in the responsible UN Human Rights Council. They accused the German government of restricting freedom of assembly in connection with the restriction of pro-Palestinian demonstrations.[11]

Thousands of people went to the streets in the past weeks to display solidarity with Palestine. As with the controversial demonstrations during Covid times, the crowd is very heterogenous in character. Many people condemn the Israeli counter-offensive in Gaza because of the large number of civilians killed. However, the German Council of Muslims criticized the propagation of Antisemitism and the dissemination of Islamist ideas that are alleged to have taken place in this context.

The conflict in the Middle East is an issue within the German population and is negotiated between the most diverse social classes and milieus. The country’s heterogeneity brings with it a great deal of potential for conflict, as the public discourse is becoming increasingly polarized. This also has to do with Turkish President Recep Tayib Erdogan, who made a state visit to Berlin on 17 November 2023. In recent days, he described Israel as a “terrorist state” in front of the Turkish parliament in Ankara, calling out the West for its “unlimited” support for Israels actions.[12] Furthermore, he called Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by Germany, as a “liberation group”.[13] In the public presence of President Erdogan, Scholz tried to distance himself as clearly as possible from Erdogan’s positions and underlined Israel’s irrefutable right to exist for Germany, as well as its right to self-defense based on international law.[14] According to political scientist Hüseyin Cicek, Erdogan has great influence on the more than one million Turkish citizens of legal age living in Germany. According to information from German broadcaster ARD, this influence can also be observed at so-called “pro-Palestine” demonstrations, where numerous Turkish flags could be found.[15]

Bottom of Form

Germany’s “reason of state” also includes the protection of Jewish life within the Federal Republic. In view of sentiments expressed at numerous demonstrations against the bombing of Israel, which have been classified as anti-Semitic by parts of the political and media landscape, the government sees itself under pressure to act. On 16 November 2023, police forces carried out a large-scale raid against the “Islamic Center Hamburg” (IHZ), which spanned seven federal states. According to Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser, the “Islamist scene” is being targeted. In addition, “anti-Semitic and anti-Israel agitation” would not be tolerated under any circumstances. The IHZ has been classified as Islamist by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution for some time and has been monitored by the Hamburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution since 1993, which also describes the IHZ as an “outpost of Tehran bound by instructions”.[16]

At the beginning of November 2023, the German Minister of the Interior banned Hamas and the international network “Samidoun – Palestinian Solidarity Network” from operating in Germany. The corresponding announcement by the German government added that “the fight against anti-Semitism is a central task of the democratic constitutional state”. This is a task that was also said to apply to “society as a whole”.[17] Many politicians even feared attacks on Jewish institutions. The domestic security situation is perceived as tense. According to Green politician and member of the Bundestag Konstantin von Notz, Germany is currently vulnerable and must therefore be prepared for actors with an interest in destabilizing the German state to take advantage of the social unrest.[18]


Conclusion & Perspective

For Germany, the current situation does indeed pose a dilemma, and not only because of a historically perceived obligation, which continues to have an impact on its foreign policy actions towards Israel. The potential for explosion and increasing polarization, which is reflected in the press, omnipresent anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism, and public demonstrations, poses a threat to the internal security. This is another reason why Germany’s foreign policy is on a course of “small steps”, walking on eggshells in an environment that could tip at any time. On the other hand, from a German perspective, it would be necessary to reassess the relationship with the political maxims that Germany has set itself. After all, the obligation to protect Jewish life in Germany and the security of the State of Israel does not preclude Germany from taking its own position in the context of the constantly changing conditions since October 7. Ideally, such a position should be oriented towards a peaceful, long-term solution to the conflict.


Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MEPEI. Any content provided by our authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.



Alipour, Nick. “Germany reaffirms backing of two-state solution for Palestine.” EURACTIV, July 11, 2023. https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/germany-reaffirms-backing-of-two-state-solution-for-palestine/, accessed December 2023.

Blome, Nikolaus. “Israel und Deutschland: Staatsräson nach Vorschrift.” DER SPIEGEL, June 11, 2023. https://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/israel-und-deutschland-staatsraeson-nach-vorschrift-ist-ein-witz-a-dfdfc8d5-c618-440e-bcda-a29ac1d083cf, accessed December 2023.

tagesschau.de, “Erdogan bei Scholz: Klarer Dissens auf offener Bühne,” November 17, 2023. https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/erdogan-scholz-100.html, accessed December 2023.

The Guardian, “Germany’s bond with Israel has been admirable – but it is becoming a straitjacket | John Kampfner,” April 11, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/nov/04/germany-israel-hamas-war-peace, accessed December 2023.

tagesschau.de, “Grünen-Politiker sieht in Deutschland “signifikant verschärfte” Sicherheitslage,” October 16, 2023. https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/innenpolitik/sicherheitslage-deutschland-nahost-100.html, accessed December 2023.

Hüseyin Topel, Mareike W., and Garmasch, Katja. “Wie türkische Lobbyisten Israel-Hass anheizen.” tagesschau.de, November 17, 2023. https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/gesellschaft/hetze-gegen-israel-100.html, accessed December 2023.

Kohler, Sarah, and dpa. “UN-Menschenrechtsrat: Kritik an Deutschlands Umgang mit Pro-Palästina-Demos und Rassismus.” Die Zeit, September 11, 2023. https://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2023-11/vereinte-nationen-menschenrechtsrat-kritik-deutschland-pro-palaestina-demos, accessed December 2023.

Pentz, Jannik. “Krieg in Nahost: Warum Erdogan die Hamas lobt.” tagesschau.de, January 11, 2023. https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/asien/erdogan-israel-hamas-100.html, accessed December 2023.

tagesschau.de, “Scholz in Tel Aviv: “Die Sicherheit Israels ist Staatsräson”,” October 17, 2023. https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/asien/scholz-israel-besuch-100.html, accessed December 2023.

Schwarte, Georg. “Nahost-Reise: Baerbocks Politik der kleinen Schritte.” tagesschau.de, December 11, 2023a. https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/baerbock-nahost-100.html, accessed December 2023.

Schwarte, Georg. “Nahost-Reise: Baerbocks Politik der kleinen Schritte.” tagesschau.de, December 11, 2023b. https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/baerbock-nahost-100.html, accessed December 2023.

BILD, “UN stimmt für Waffenstillstand in Gaza – Deutschland enthält sich | Politik,” December 13, 2023. https://www.bild.de/politik/ausland/politik-ausland/un-stimmt-fuer-waffenstillstand-in-gaza-deutschland-enthaelt-sich-86414250.bild.html, accessed December 2023.

ZDFheute, “UN-Vollversammlung verlangt Waffenstillstand in Gaza,” December 12, 2023. https://www.zdf.de/nachrichten/politik/ausland/gaza-waffenstillstand-un-vollversammlung-israel-100.html, accessed December 2023.

Der Tagesspiegel, “Vor Deutschland-Besuch: Erdogan bezeichnet Israel als Terror-Staat und spricht von Völkermord in Gaza,” November 15, 2023. https://www.tagesspiegel.de/internationales/vor-deutschland-besuch-erdogan-bezeichnet-israel-als-terror-staat-und-spricht-von-volkermord-in-gaza-10783933.html, accessed December 2023.

POLITICO, “Why Germany wants no Israel-Hamas ‘cease-fire’,” October 27, 2023. https://www.politico.eu/newsletter/berlin-bulletin/why-germany-wants-no-israel-hamas-cease-fire/, accessed November 2023.



[1] Georg Schwarte, “Nahost-Reise: Baerbocks Politik der kleinen Schritte,” tagesschau.de, December 11, 2023a, https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/baerbock-nahost-100.html, accessed December 2023.

[2] “Scholz in Tel Aviv: “Die Sicherheit Israels ist Staatsräson”,” tagesschau.de, October 17, 2023, https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/asien/scholz-israel-besuch-100.html, accessed December 2023.

[3] Nick Alipour, “Germany reaffirms backing of two-state solution for Palestine,” EURACTIV, July 11, 2023, https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/germany-reaffirms-backing-of-two-state-solution-for-palestine/, accessed December 2023.

[4] „Die Lage ist zum Zerreißen“: Baerbock klagt über Gaza-Diplomatie – und lehnt Waffenstillstand ab (2023). In: Der Tagesspiegel, 13.11.2023. Online verfügbar unter https://www.tagesspiegel.de/internationales/die-lage-ist-zum-zerreissen-baerbock-klagt-uber-gaza-diplomatie–und-lehnt-waffenstillstand-ab-10772572.html, zuletzt geprüft am 20.11.2023.


[5] “Why Germany wants no Israel-Hamas ‘cease-fire’,” POLITICO, October 27, 2023, https://www.politico.eu/newsletter/berlin-bulletin/why-germany-wants-no-israel-hamas-cease-fire/, accessed November 2023.

[6] “UN-Vollversammlung verlangt Waffenstillstand in Gaza,” ZDFheute, December 12, 2023, https://www.zdf.de/nachrichten/politik/ausland/gaza-waffenstillstand-un-vollversammlung-israel-100.html, accessed December 2023.

[7] “UN stimmt für Waffenstillstand in Gaza – Deutschland enthält sich | Politik,” BILD, December 13, 2023, https://www.bild.de/politik/ausland/politik-ausland/un-stimmt-fuer-waffenstillstand-in-gaza-deutschland-enthaelt-sich-86414250.bild.html, accessed December 2023.

[8] Georg Schwarte, “Nahost-Reise: Baerbocks Politik der kleinen Schritte,” tagesschau.de, December 11, 2023b, https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/baerbock-nahost-100.html, accessed December 2023.

[9] “Germany’s bond with Israel has been admirable – but it is becoming a straitjacket | John Kampfner,” The Guardian, April 11, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/nov/04/germany-israel-hamas-war-peace, accessed December 2023.

[10] Nikolaus Blome, “Israel und Deutschland: Staatsräson nach Vorschrift,” DER SPIEGEL, June 11, 2023, https://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/israel-und-deutschland-staatsraeson-nach-vorschrift-ist-ein-witz-a-dfdfc8d5-c618-440e-bcda-a29ac1d083cf, accessed December 2023.

[11] Sarah Kohler and dpa, “UN-Menschenrechtsrat: Kritik an Deutschlands Umgang mit Pro-Palästina-Demos und Rassismus,” Die Zeit, September 11, 2023, https://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2023-11/vereinte-nationen-menschenrechtsrat-kritik-deutschland-pro-palaestina-demos, accessed December 2023.

[12] “Vor Deutschland-Besuch: Erdogan bezeichnet Israel als Terror-Staat und spricht von Völkermord in Gaza,” Der Tagesspiegel, November 15, 2023, https://www.tagesspiegel.de/internationales/vor-deutschland-besuch-erdogan-bezeichnet-israel-als-terror-staat-und-spricht-von-volkermord-in-gaza-10783933.html, accessed December 2023.

[13] Jannik Pentz, “Krieg in Nahost: Warum Erdogan die Hamas lobt,” tagesschau.de, January 11, 2023, https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/asien/erdogan-israel-hamas-100.html, accessed December 2023.

[14] “Erdogan bei Scholz: Klarer Dissens auf offener Bühne,” tagesschau.de, November 17, 2023, https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/erdogan-scholz-100.html, accessed December 2023.

[15] Mareike W. Hüseyin Topel and Katja Garmasch, “Wie türkische Lobbyisten Israel-Hass anheizen,” tagesschau.de, November 17, 2023, https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/gesellschaft/hetze-gegen-israel-100.html, accessed December 2023.

[16] hamburg.de (2023): Neue Erkenntnisse über das Islamische Zentrum Hamburg. Online verfügbar unter https://www.hamburg.de/verfassungsschutz/15259054/izh-aussenposten-des-teheraner-regimes/, zuletzt aktualisiert am 20.11.2023, zuletzt geprüft am 20.11.2023.

[17] Die Bundesregierung informiert | Startseite (2023): Faeser verbietet Hamas und Samidoun | Bundesregierung. Online verfügbar unter https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/aktuelles/hamas-verbot-2234286, zuletzt aktualisiert am 20.11.2023, zuletzt geprüft am 20.11.2023.

[18] “Grünen-Politiker sieht in Deutschland “signifikant verschärfte” Sicherheitslage,” tagesschau.de, October 16, 2023, https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/innenpolitik/sicherheitslage-deutschland-nahost-100.html, accessed December 2023.

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About the author:

Benedikt ERTL

Benedikt ERTL, research fellow at MEPEI, is an undergraduate student at Regensburg University of Applied Sciences, where he is majoring in International Relations & Management. His academic focus centers on Strategic Studies, Diplomacy, and Hybrid Warfare with a special emphasis on the Middle East.

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