Recognition of Palestine: Germany Supports the Far-Right Israeli Government

Die Freiheitsliebe German website interviewed Nimrod Flaschenberg, a leading member of the Communist Party of Israel and Israelis für Frieden (Israelis for Peace) activist in Berlin. Following excerpts from the interview published in The Left Berlin.

Nimrod Flaschenberg during a demonstration held in Berlin against the war in Gaza (Photo: The Left Berlin)

Recently Norway, Spain, Ireland and Slovenia recognized Palestine as a state. What do you think of the decision?

The recognition of the State of Palestine by 4 EU member states was a courageous and important decision that should lead to a wave of recognition by other Western countries. Considering Israel’s endless war of destruction in Gaza following the October 7th attack, the Palestinian issue has returned to the center of international politics. While there is a global consensus regarding the need for the establishment of a Palestinian state, in practice the Western powers are backing Israel’s rejectionist position. They are, in effect, aiding Israel in preventing a process that will lead to true Palestinian independence and statehood.

Recognition by European countries, alongside the cases promoted against Israel and Israeli officials in the ICJ and ICC, might indicate a fracture in the impunity Israel has enjoyed by rich countries. It is yet to be determined if this is indeed a watershed moment, but there is a chance for a diplomatic avalanche that will isolate Israel’s far-right government.

Recognition is not a new practice. Most countries in the world and a vast majority of the Global South already recognized a Palestinian state. The current resistance to Palestine’s full membership in the UN comes from Western powers who have an ideological as well as a geostrategic interest in upholding a firm alliance with Israel. From this global perspective, it is not surprising that countries from Europe’s “political periphery” are the ones who promoted this significant act of recognition.

Israel reacted indignantly and angrily to the decision and even refused to allow Spain to open its embassy to people in Palestine. Why is the Israeli government so angry?

In recent years, and even more so since October 7th, Israeli public diplomacy, or Hasbara, has been radicalizing its messages constantly. According to Israel’s official line, every act that refers to Palestinians as equal human beings, let alone as deserving political rights, is deemed either terroristic or antisemitic, or both – even when it is based on non-violent practices such as diplomacy. The treatment of recognition is no different. Israel’s leading line states that recognition is a prize for terrorism after the October 7th attack. This reaction highlights the Israeli tunnel-vision focus on the events of October 7th as a frozen moment in time. Israeli politicians and the Israeli media constantly repeat and retell the goriest details of that awful day while generally ignoring the carnage Israel has since committed in Gaza. Therefore, Hasbara falsely positions recognition in the context of Hamas’s attack and not in that of the Palestinian catastrophe experienced since, nor as an obvious answer to 57 years of brutal military occupation and 76 years of dispossession and displacement.

But the Israeli rage does indicate a substantive risk. If recognition gains momentum, it will endanger Israel’s foreign policy strategy. If only small or medium level international actors recognize Palestine, this recognition does have political significance but not an overwhelming one. But if one of the permanent members of the security council – U.K., U.S., or France (Russia and China have already recognized) – or if Germany, the strongest country in the EU, recognizes – this will bring about significant isolation and possibly further legal action against Israel. Israel’s aggressive response to the recognition should be seen as an attempt to deter these powerful countries – all of them major Israel backers, from following the example of Spain, Ireland, Slovenia, and Norway.

Germany and the USA refuse to recognize until Israel and Palestine reach a settlement. Given the Israeli government’s position, this means that it will be pushed back forever. Are both states not interested in an independent Palestine? Or how can their position be explained?

Both Germany and the U.S. are supposedly backers of the Two State Solution. But in practice, they are the two strongest backers of an Israeli government that is led by fascists and whose paramount aim is to prevent a Palestinian state. The cold facts are that Germany and the U.S. are supporting an Israeli government that commits ethnic cleansing, starvation, and war crimes with the stated objective of preventing Palestinian self-determination.

The argument promoted by Germany and the U.S. against recognition is that a peaceful resolution could only be reached through negotiations. This is true – negotiation must take place at a certain point. What is also true is that Israel has been refusing any negotiations for a decade. In the light of this, and to eventually reach Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for a peaceful settlement, powers that are genuinely in favor of Palestinian independence must set up an uncompromising political line that the Palestinian right to self-determination in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 is unnegotiable. Recognition before negotiations will not harm the chance for negotiations. It will only set minimal terms for those negotiations into which Israel will eventually be pressured.

But we also need to look at the American and German positions in a structural frame. The hypocrisy of refusing to recognize Palestine and the unconditional support for Israel is rooted in imperialist and capitalist interests. There is a solid ideological foundation for the support for Israel in both the US and Germany – the “common values” rhetoric in the U.S. and the Staasträson formulation of the German political elites. This is the center of heated conversation in both countries. But just as important are profit-seeking and geostrategic interests – be it in arms sales to Israel, in reliance on the Israeli cyber industry, in Israel’s position as a Western “aircraft carrier” for the Atlantic powers in the center of the volatile and energy-rich Middle East, or in Israel’s role in policing the region as a counterweight to Iran. For all these less-discussed reasons also – German and American leaders are tolerating Israel’s crimes.

These interests could be challenged through political action. The movement in solidarity with Palestine and against the war is making significant gains despite wide repression. Suppose this movement adds to its mainly negative demands a positive call for Palestinian statehood and recognition. In that case, there is a real possibility that one of the major powers will make the truly transformative act of recognizing.

It should be stated that out of the four powers I mentioned before—the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France—the best chances for recognition are in France and perhaps in the U.K. after Labour’s expected election victory in July. But pushing for recognition should also be incorporated into the movement in the U.S. and Germany since “a domino effect” of recognition that will transform the Security Council or the European Union, is definitely possible.

Many in the global solidarity movement with Palestine think that the demand for recognition is part of a two-state illusion. They support the solution of one democratic state. Do these demands stand in contradiction?

It is essential to distinguish between the recognition of a Palestinian state and the “two-state solution,” which has almost become an empty mantra repeated by global leaders who are not promoting it. I am personally in favor of the two-state solution, while other members of “Israelis for Peace” support different solutions. Yet we agree that the demand for recognition of a Palestinian state is relevant to the promotion of all peaceful solutions – two states, confederation, or one democratic state. It is, first and foremost, a question of political tactics and reachable goals in the struggle between the forces of peace and those of forever war.

The most broadly shared assertion about Israel/Palestine globally is that the Palestinians have a right to self-determination and that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is disenfranchising them of this right. It follows that this Israeli occupation is illegitimate. These shared assertions mean that the demand for Palestinian statehood is the diplomatic low-hanging fruit and the tactically unifying demand in a drive for peace.

Human rights groups describe the Israeli structures as apartheid. This system will not give Palestinians rights without a collective political struggle by the Palestinians themselves, with the diplomatic and political support of the international community. This struggle might end in different ways, but the consolidation of diplomatic power must be centered around an overwhelming agreement that Palestinians deserve a state.

The primary way to challenge and isolate the extreme-right powers in Israel is to deem unacceptable their ideological belief that only Jews have national rights in the land. We must hit them where it matters the most, in what they fear the most – and that is a Palestinian state. It is time to shift the focus from the two-state solution to the imminent demand of Palestinian statehood. We’ll see what happens next.

How do the recognitions of Palestine change the balance of power?

While it is a significant step forward, we need to remember that power still resides on the side of Israel. The most obvious example is Netanyahu’s invitation to speak in front of both houses of Congress in Washington, DC. This man, a war criminal who might soon be unable to travel to Europe for fear of being arrested, is honored in the center of global power. This invitation not only reminds us where power lies but is an act of active discrediting and destruction of the entire edifice of international law – by the U.S. and Israel. 

The confrontation between Israel and international law can and should be where Germany differentiates itself from the US and says clearly – we stand with international law. The Federal Republic needs to say that the heritage of Nuremberg, as prosecutor Karim Khan described the ethical weight of the ICC, is at least as important for it as the Staatsräson, a pre-democratic concept. This discussion – on the fundamental values that Germany holds dear, on the centrality of universal rights to German post-war political ethos – is what the question of recognition can bring to the German discourse.

An extended version of this interview first appeared in German in the website Die Freiheitsliebe