“It breaks my heart”: Now Sigmar Gabriel asks an uncomfortable question about Israel

The commitment to Israel as part of Germany’s raison d’état has led to thankful clarity in dealing with the invaded state, but also to a noticeable hardening of German foreign policy. There is currently little public support for the political and humanitarian concerns of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The calls for a ceasefire are not met with much approval from Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock:

“I totally understand the impulse in this terrible situation, where innocent children, people, women, mothers, families are not only suffering terribly, but are losing their lives.”

Foreign policy in the Middle East conflict: impulses were not enough

But impulses were not enough to help people. Our Foreign Minister:

“Those who demanded such things also have to answer questions: for example, the question of how Israel’s security can be guaranteed.”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz sees it the same way. “I don’t think the demand for a ceasefire or a long break is right,” he said at a “Heilbronner Stimme” event last week. Hamas should not be allowed to “recover”.

The Bonn international lawyer Matthias Herdegen provides the legal basis for this attitude. He says that despite the many civilian casualties on the Palestinian side, the actions of the Israeli armed forces are legally justified. “International law does not force the attacked party to limit its combat operations so that the number of victims of the attacker does not exceed the number of those killed in their own country.” He says:

“Such a barrier would undermine the right to self-defense.”

The first prominent political figure to distance himself from this reading of German reasons of state and advise a course correction is the former Vice Chancellor, Foreign Minister and SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel. In a cover story written exclusively for The Pioneer, he writes:

“Especially here in Germany, there is a void in the public political discourse and also in some important leading media. And this gap affects the dramatic situation of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and increasingly in the West Bank.”

Israeli ground offensive massively affects the right to life of the civilian population in Gaza

He comes to the conclusion that the Israeli ground offensive massively affects the right to life of the civilian population in Gaza:

“In one of the most densely populated high-rise developments in the world, you cannot carry out a massive military operation without endangering the life and limb of innocent people.”

He asks:

“Where should the 1.2 million people flee to who were given 24-hour notice via leaflets to leave their areas of residence?”

He makes no secret of his personal feelings:

“For me personally, I admit: it breaks my heart when I see children dying – regardless of whether they are Jewish or Palestinian children. And no one who feels the way I do is a ‘relativizer’ of Hamas’ terror or even equates Israel with Hamas.”

Gabriel: “Biden shows that both are possible”

He expressly supports Israel’s right to exist and also the right to self-defense in the country brutally attacked by Hamas. But he has questions:

“Does this clear commitment also have to lead to us hardening ourselves in the eyes of the Arab and Muslim world towards the suffering of the Palestinians? And is the argument really sustainable in the long term that the destruction of Hamas must be such an existential goal for Israel that it justifies the many thousands of civilian victims?”

Gabriel, who, in addition to his supervisory board mandates at Thyssenkrupp Stahl, Siemens Energy and Deutsche Bank, is president of the Atlantic Bridge, refers to the politics of the United States and its President Joe Biden:

“Biden shows that both are possible: to take a clear position to protect Israel and at the same time to clearly identify the suffering of the Palestinians in the present and past.”

“That’s why the Qatari dollars went to Hamas with the approval of the Israeli government.”

The international community and also the state of Israel have made mistakes in the past. Gabriel also sees Hamas’ terrorist attacks as a failure of the strategy of the Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu, which has long tried to use the principle of “divide and rule” to weaken the authority of the Palestinian government by allowing Hamas to operate in the Gaza Strip. Literally:

“The Netanyahu government even went so far as to believe that it could promote Hamas without any real threat to Israel, thereby weakening the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport quoted Netanyahu verbatim from a speech to his Likud party: ‘Anyone who wants to thwart the creation of a Palestinian state must support the strengthening of Hamas. (…) This is part of our strategy to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria.’”


“That is why the Qatari dollars flowed to Hamas with the approval of the Israeli government.”

Saying this out loud in Germany, says the former foreign minister, is “neither a perpetrator-victim reversal nor a relativization of Hamas terror.” It is the “necessary contextualization to understand why even if Hamas is defeated militarily, the long shadow of the past will not disappear.”

Given the disunity within the European Union, one can only be glad that there is the United States, which, despite its close alliance with Israel, knows what dangers lurk in the continuation of military violence in the Gaza Strip. Gabriel becomes clearer than clear:

“Biden obviously sees far more clearly than his European allies that the conflict, which appears to be limited to Gaza, can become, or has long since become, another major building block in the growing confrontation of the Global South against the Western democracies.”

Joe Biden’s double message to Israel is also Gabriel’s message:

“We stand for your security, but we expect steps to de-escalate and find a political future for Gaza.”

Gabriel’s idea of ​​this solution:

“The best option now is for the United States, and hopefully its European allies, to pressure Israel to stop the bombing and honor its commitment to allow humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip and to set the terms of a ceasefire.”

“Biden has the courage for diplomacy”

His conclusion:

“The American president dares to do what is now often mocked and despised in this country: he has the courage to engage in diplomacy.”

You can read Sigmar Gabriel’s essay on dealing with Israel, Palestine and Hamas here. We also had the ex-Vice Chancellor’s words translated into English and Arabic in order to expand the resonance space for the necessary political debate.

Hank Peter

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *