Germany Mediates in Mideast

From the January 2007 Trumpet Print Edition

Under a veil of secrecy, an officer of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, the bnd, is once again acting as a key negotiator between Israel and the Shiite terrorist group, Hezbollah.

The Trumpet has long warned its readers to watch for Europe, particularly Germany, to muscle its way into the peace process.

One influential role Germany has filled is that of chief negotiator in prisoner swaps between Hezbollah and Israel. In January 2004, for example, it brokered the swap of more than 400 Arab prisoners for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three soldiers.

Now, once again, Germany’s secret service is mediating between Israel and Hezbollah in efforts to secure the release of the two Israeli soldiers taken hostage by Hezbollah in July 2006.

Regarding the chief negotiator, Spiegel Online reported, “The German analyst is known as ‘Mr. Hezbollah.’ He lives in Berlin and speaks fluent Arabic, English and French. He was educated as an Arabist, and he has qualifications which neither high-level diplomats nor seasoned statesmen can offer, in the eyes of the UN leadership. Since he’s taken part in previous German-negotiated prisoner exchanges, he knows the bizarre rules of hostage-trading as well as the main people involved. … Very few people have more experience than the German intelligence officer. ‘Mr. Hezbollah’ has been present at almost every previous negotiation involving Hezbollah, and he’s met [Hezbollah chief] Hassan Nasrallah personally. He enjoys a good reputation in the Hezbollah’s Beirut headquarters as well as in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office” (Oct. 23, 2006).

Germany has clearly secured itself a slot in Middle East negotiations—those involving hostage taking—that the parties involved, as well as the United Nations, feel no other nation can adequately fill.

Whether these negotiations will be as “successful” as previous rounds remains to be seen. But even in the event they are not, they will still serve Berlin’s purposes. The prospects for success being somewhat dim, given the hardened positions of both sides, Germany at first appeared hesitant to take up the challenge. Berlin did not want to “tarnish Germany’s latter-day image as a peacemaker” (ibid.). It did, however, willingly come to the party when requested to do so personally by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Working under the auspices of the UN, Germany can palm off any responsibility for failure, while its involvement still cements its position among key players in the Middle East. As Spiegel explained, “Any failure in talks will lie at the UN’s feet, but a success will bring at least some credit back to Germany.”

Of note is the fact that, though the official invitation for German mediation came from the UN, the initial suggestion for Germany’s involvement came from Israel itself. When the two soldiers were first kidnapped back in July, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor, openly asked for Germany’s negotiating help. That Israel is open to—and seeking—Germany’s help is a trend that is prophesied to have detrimental consequences for the Jewish nation in the future, when Germany betrays that trust.