Why Merkel's wisdom in Jerusalem must be carried forward
Hamzah Rifaat Hussain
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Old City on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, Jerusalem, January 2, 2018. /Reuters

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Old City on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, Jerusalem, January 2, 2018. /Reuters

Editor's Note: Hamzah Rifaat Hussain, a former visiting fellow at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. and former assistant researcher at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, is a TV anchor at Indus News in Pakistan. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Even in the final stages of her era, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's remarks in Jerusalem act as an eye-opener for those desirous of peace in the Middle East. By referencing the "two-state" solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, she articulated the principled stance that all actors, facilitators and stakeholders of peace between the two sides must devise solutions that are grounded in impartiality and in the absence of playing sides to the conflict while adopting shrewd, pragmatic and straight forward approaches.

The truth is there is no going around pragmatism to resolve this decades-old crisis, and avoiding a zero-sum game on it is needed. 

While there were differences between Germany and Israel on a plethora of issues, chiefly the revival of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal with Iran, Merkel's approach was to simultaneously acknowledge Israel's security concerns while imploring the Naftali Bennet leadership to secure the right of Palestinians to self-determination and a sovereign state. 

The creation of an independent state acts as a potential catalyst for renewed engagement in the presence of sustainable peace, which can be contrasted with years of U.S. diplomacy resulting in heightened tensions between the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships as witnessed during the 76th United Nations General Assembly session. Any mechanism for peace was viewed as cosmetic with relentless support of one party to the conflict compromising and alienating the legitimate interests of the other.

Conversely, Merkel continues to stand out as an iconic symbol of unconditional peacemongering and mature diplomacy, which is precisely what major policymakers must replicate if this crisis is to be resolved. 

It is also expected that the incoming government in Berlin will adopt a similar stance after it is formalized following the coalition talks that resulted from an inconclusive election in September 2021.

The German flag flies in Berlin, Germany, July 6, 2021. /Getty

The German flag flies in Berlin, Germany, July 6, 2021. /Getty

German diplomacy in allaying concerns, playing mediatory roles and refraining from active military engagements is the ideal foil for the tense Israeli-Palestinian binary, as the countries have been at loggerheads over subjects, such as settlement expansion, cross border airstrikes and conflicting narratives on self-determination.

Furthermore, should the incoming Berlin government actually replicate Merkel's wisdom, it can potentially usher in an approach that can offset right-wing populism for more constructivist approaches to resolving conflicts.

To her credit, Merkel managed to navigate a thin line between outright denouncing Israel's actions despite her country's controversial history with Nazism while also acknowledging the genuine concern of the Palestinians. This is precisely what is required.

Those issuing cosmetic calls for tangible peace must acknowledge that standing by Israel's security concerns should not come at the expense of denigrating the Palestinian cause, which is a fact repeatedly sidelined by respective U.S. administrations.

Conflict resolution hinges on synergizing efforts and exploring common areas of deliberation, including attempts to rekindle stalled negotiations and facilitate dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians. Peace facilitation should also not be subject to another country's domestic politics or come amid an absence of de-escalation calls resulting in relentless combat taking a toll on thousands of lives in occupied territories.

This can only be made possible through impartiality and statesmanship with an unwavering commitment to peace, which is what constituted Merkel's diplomacy.

Of course, there would be detractors who would consider her stance in Jerusalem on the conflict or broader Middle Eastern affairs to be either too apologetic toward Israel, outright hostile to Palestinians or vice versa. Prime Minister Naftali Bennet himself was not receptive to the proposal to resuscitate the 2015 JCPOA deal with Iran, which he equated with appeasement of the Ebrahim Raisi political power.

Merkel's response was to claim that any arrangement is better than not having one, which demonstrates her history of championing multilateralism to resolve global issues. It must be understood that peace between Israel and Iran is a critical variable that defines the future course of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, where backing one state at the expense of the other risks igniting a tinderbox in the Middle East.

However, few diplomats understand such nuances, which has resulted in a more polarized region and a more protracted, entrenched and prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That said, dignitaries and politicians would do well to learn from  Merkel's diplomacy and emulate her strategic wisdom while implementing policies on the conflict.

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