GERMANY

I will be abroad for most of June and will not be posting material on the website as frequently as usual.

I will be in Germany next week and hope to find out a little more about the politics of a country that is pivotal to the future of Europe. The fall of the Iron Curtain has changed the security imperative of German politics. Germany now enjoys security to its east as well as to its west.

German reunification initially proved to be much more costly in financial terms than anticipated. The effort that this then called for, including wage restraint, pension reform and high savings, has now made the German economy much more competitive than its neighbours. The fall in the euro will help German exports as well.

But German society is ageing. This has created an anxiety about the future that has made Germans exceptionally reluctant to pledge their credit to help less well managed euro area countries to avoid defaulting on their debts. Of course German banks would suffer if there was a default and, in that sense, German credit to help Greece is being pledged to help out German banks too. This part of the argument has not got as much prominence in Germany.

In a sense Germany needs to reach a new understanding with the rest of Europe, one that it can show is in its interests and those of other EU countries. That will require a lot of imaginative thought. It will also require other EU countries to get a better understanding of German anxieties and to stop lecturing Germany.

GAZA AND THE BEST INTERESTS OF ISRAEL

The Israeli blockade of Gaza is deservedly coming under international scrutiny at last.

I do not believe that Israel and its allies have been pursuing policies that are in Israel’s interests for some time now.

Israel needs to negotiate its borders with its neighbours sooner rather than later. The high birth rates in surrounding countries and the looming US fiscal deficits suggest that the balance of power in Israel’s region is not moving in its favour over the longer term. Israel is the only nuclear weapons state in the Middle East which gives it significant negotiating strength at the present time.

Therefore Israel should want to bed down a deal while it is still in a strong position. Yet it is doing the opposite.

It refused to recognise, or speak to, the party that won the Palestinian election and was supported in this by the United States and the European Union. The bona fides of the party the Palestinian voters had chosen should have been tested ,at least for a period ,before setting politically impossible conditions for them.

One has the sense that its present indirect “talks” with the Palestinian Authority are just that , talks, rather than serious negotiations toward a deal.

The blockade of Gaza is such that Israel, and its ally Egypt, are still legally occupying Gaza under international law. Under international law, an occupying power has an obligation to provide for the people under its occupation. Israel, far from providing for the people of Gaza, is preventing others from doing so. In a way, the provision of such limited aid as does get through, facilitates the Israeli occupation by allowing it to avoid some of its humanitarian obligations as the occupying power.

Israel would probably prefer that it negotiate boundaries with neighbouring Arab states and let them take over the Palestinians. But Israeli policies have helped to create a strong sense of Palestinian nationality and that solution is no longer possible. Israel needs to come to terms with the Palestinian people as they are now, not as it wishes them to be at some future time.

I believe the European Union has shown little or no leadership on this issue. It has left everything to the United States. In so doing, it has failed Israel and its future, because it is in Israel’s long term interests that its present short sighted electorate and Government be pushed to make a final settlement with its neighbours now, not in 30 years time, when the terms

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