Gabriel: The 180-degree turn of the past American policy worries us

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel Enlarge image (©

How do you evaluate the danger of Donald Trump’s decision?

I think this decision truly bears the risk of further escalating an already difficult situation in the Middle East, as well as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. This issue, the status of Jerusalem, was avoided even in good times, when the United States had helped to negotiate a peace agreement – because everyone said the Palestinians and the Israelis would not truly be in a position to make a decision on this until the very end. With the US now anticipating this decision, so to speak, there’s a great risk that people will see this as oil being poured on the fire. Instead of reducing the conflict, there’s a great danger the decision will exacerbate it.

Trump is saying he wants to stay a partner in the peace talks. How reliable and how credible is the US now?

Many have certainly had a sympathetic view of the talks that US envoys have conducted in the region – including us. Because the US is, after all, a very important nation there, and they did listen to everyone involved so as to find approaches to getting an agreement. That did send positive signals. I think all of that has now been thwarted by this reaction. The credibility of the US, at least on the side of the Palestinians, will now be called into question. It will take a great deal of effort to more or less get things back into balance.

Yesterday, in a speech, you demanded more self-confidence in dealing with the US. Will you drive your own European, US-independent course in the Middle East conflict now?

It’s absolutely clear that we Germans have always said both: We stand by the fact that the security of the State of Israel, as the Federal Chancellor once said, is part of our raison d’état. There can be no doubt about that. At the same time, we’ve always campaigned for the two-state solution, and for the right to self-determination of the Palestinians. Many others in Europe have done the same. To date, United States policy tried time and again to pursue this path. We will of course also talk to the Americans, and on Monday there will be a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council. This will be a big issue there. But I think we will need to maintain our own positions. We shouldn’t change tack now. That would only increase, not lessen, the problem.

But isn’t Trump right when he says it's just the recognition of a reality, it's for Israel to decide where its own capital is?

What’s at stake here, for example, is the situation regarding East Jerusalem – how will the neighbouring countries react? There are, after all, also Palestinian interests to consider. It’s no use saying that the conflict can be solved simply by saying one side is right. There are good reasons why in the past no countries anywhere in the world have said that they accept Jerusalem as the capital. We’ve always maintained our embassy in Tel Aviv. Our embassy is there, and the European embassies are there. There’s a reason for all of this, because we didn’t want to take sides in the conflict. Instead, we said there’s a negotiation process that we can support, but that ultimately the decisions will need to be made by the Israelis and the Palestinians. There are different ideas about how this can be done, ideas for arriving at a solution. Now all of this is being anticipated, as it were. When we say we don’t want that to happen, then that of course doesn’t mean we don’t accept that there are also Israeli interests. But anticipating this simply means ignoring the interests of the Palestinians. In volatile conflicts such as this, that’s never a good idea.

But it could also be said that we are observing at least some American honesty – or not?

Let me ask you what’s honest about ignoring the interests of the Palestinians?

Well, that it’s known now where the US actually stands, and that they are not just pretending to be a parity mediator.

Well, in the past, the US has always been a fair mediator. There have been multiple attempts to get results at Camp David. The US has never been a country that stood on the sidelines. On the contrary, the US has had the greatest influence on the region, and they’re losing that in certain parts. What’s happening now is that this will be viewed by those in the Arab region who feel solidarity for the Palestinians as disregard for their interests. This can’t be explained away as an attempt at “honesty”. What it is, primarily, is a complete about-face on previous US policy, and that worries us. We hope these concerns can be allayed, but this policy U-turn is a big problem.


Report by: Ingo Zamperoni

Source: ARD

TV Show: Tagesthemen

Released on Wednesday, 06.12.2017, 22:20