February 10, 2013 – A Germany-Israel Strategic Dialogue was held in Potsdam, Germany on January 14-15, 2013. The dialogue was organized by the European Leadership Network (ELNET), which works to strengthen Israeli and Jewish interests in Europe and to encourage a more positive relationship between Europe and Israel.
Although Europe is Israel’s largest trading partner (with a total trade volume of more than twenty billion euros a year) and a significant partner in scientific, cultural, and technological realms, the political relationship between Europe and Israel has been extremely turbulent in recent years, leading to increasing distrust between European and Israeli leaders. This erosion in relations is true not only of Europe in general, but of Germany specifically, although it has historically been Israel’s greatest supporter in Europe.
Targum Shlishi is supporting work ELNET is doing to positively impact Germany-Israel relations. “For many decades, Germany has been a vitally important ally for Israel, which is in keeping with its historic responsibility. However, recently relations are growing more strained. ELNET’s work to strengthen this critical relationship is much needed, and its track record in terms of its relationship-building activities with other European countries is very impressive,” notes Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “Similar initiatives should be undertaken with more governments and citizens across Europe, Africa, and even the Arab countries.” [Note: For further thoughts on German’s moral responsibility to the Jewish people, see Aryeh Rubin’s 2005 speech delivered at the Bundestag in Berlin announcing the launch of Operation Last Chance in Germany.]
ELNET’s work in Germany includes the dialogue in mid-January, which brought together twenty-six prominent policy makers and experts from Israel and Germany for low-key and intimate discussions aimed at deepening the bilateral strategic relationship. The Germany-Israel dialogue is modeled on ELNET’s ongoing dialogues with France, which began in 2010. ELNET’s dialogues have encouraged the development of new ideas, joint brainstorming and relationship-building, and significantly enhanced cooperation. The German-Israel Dialogue was organized in cooperation with the German Council on Foreign Relations and the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies and received the official endorsement of Germany’s Ministry of Defense. The first dialogue was a “tremendous success,” according to ELNET director Raanan Eliaz.
“Germany is crucial to Israel both diplomatically and militarily,” says Eliaz. “Germany is the world’s third largest exporter of arms. As the New York Times has recently noticed, Germany’s actions can shape Europe’s military affairs for many years to come.” In addition to the dialogue, ELNET plans to redefine and strengthen Israel-German relations in several other ways, including pro-Israel advocacy and systemic relationship-building with German officials and policymakers, strategic communication with the media, promoting contacts between German and Israeli officials and experts, encouraging German supporters of Israel to develop good relations with pro-Israel political candidates and parties, and more. “Our goal is to increase awareness of mutual strategic interests between Germany and Israel and to build a compelling case for German political support of Israel based not only on historic oblications of yesterday, but on national interests of today and tomorrow,” says Eliaz.
The European Leadership Network (ELNET) is dedicated to strengethening relations between Europe and Israel based on common strategic interests and democratic values. Founded in 2007, ELNET is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. ELNET works to establish and support a professional network in key European countries that facilitates dialogue, knowledge sharing, and strategic cooperation among leading European and Israeli policy makers. ELNET engages senior figures in high-level networking opportunities, informal strategic dialogues, and educational programs that deepen their insight into critical policy issues affecting Israel-Europe relations. For more information about ELNET, visit its website: www.elnetwork.eu/. Friends of ELNET (FELNET) further expands ELNET’s reach in the US—it is a non-profit organization dedicated to support ELNET; see elnetwork.eu for more information.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website: www.targumshlishi.org.