By Salama A Salama
Angela Merkel, German chancellor, was not yet born when the Nazis came to power and proceeded to commit crimes of war and genocide, of which the Jews were among the victims. She doesn't need, therefore, to recreate the guilt a previous generation must have felt. But for utterly pragmatic reasons, she did. Since World War II, German governments have made a point of placating the Israelis, mostly for reasons related to Israel's international influence.
The recent visit by Merkel to Israel was full of symbolism. The chancellor reiterated her country's lasting support for Israel and apologised for a crime in which she, and her entire generation, had no part. The move was criticised by German academics. A statement by 25 university professors said that Germany has paid its debts for the Holocaust in full and must stop favouring Israel and embrace a more even-handed policy in the Middle East.
Merkel wasn't willing to listen. Unlike some German politicians, including Gerhard Schroeder, who had the vision to take a relatively impartial stand on the Middle East conflict, Merkel, with her fragile coalition, chose to take sides. The German chancellor voiced her support to Israel despite the latter's sabotaging of peace efforts and its building of settlements on Palestinian land. Merkel, who denounced at length Iran's nuclear programme, had nothing to say about Israel's stockpiling of nuclear warheads and its opposition to the creation of a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East.
Oddly enough, the Germans are thinking of arranging a peace conference in Berlin in June, presumably to follow up on the Annapolis conference. Germany is not an unbiased party in the Middle East. It has no leverage whatsoever over Israel. And its Middle East policies mirror those of Washington. Aside from sending relief supplies to the Palestinians, the Germans have done little to promote a just and lasting peace in the region. But they want their summit.
Peace conferences are turning into a cottage industry. The Russians and the French want in too. Moscow has sent its foreign minister to the region to look into organising a conference. Annapolis was apparently an inspiration. A failed conference has whetted everyone's appetite for more. The French are thinking of holding a post-Annapolis conference. It is as if Annapolis has suddenly turned into a magical show that brings much satisfaction to diplomats of all denominations. The vacuum left behind by a paralysed US administration is too tempting to leave unfilled for these idle politicians, Tony Blair being a case in point.
The Arabs should have already taken a stand on such useless pursuits, but for some reason they haven't. So we keep sending delegates to conferences that can only reproduce the failure of Annapolis. Our perseverance with the conference business boggles the mind. Even the Palestinian Authority, which should have been incensed by Merkel's remarks, is playing along. What can it possibly hope to gain, apart from a bit of funding?
The ultimate display of contempt was staged by US presidential hopeful John McCain after he landed in Amman. Standing only steps away from Jordanian King Abdullah, McCain said he was in favour of Jerusalem becoming the eternal capital of Israel. The Jordanian king didn't contradict him, even when McCain started defending Israel's assaults on Gaza.
How can we expect any of the peace conferences to work in our favour with so much bias around? Merkel actually dismissed a minister from her delegation after the latter objected to Germany's funding of Israeli projects in Africa. And McCain is just rubbing salt into the wounds. Do we really want to waste our time with conferences?