Policy statement by Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and Member of the German Bundestag, on the situation in Israel 
12 October 2023

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Madam President,
Ambassador Prosor,
Esteemed colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

On the morning of 7 October, Israel awoke to a nightmare. On that day, a Jewish public holiday, Hamas fired thousands of missiles into Israel from the Gaza Strip. At the same time, heavily armed Palestinian terrorists crossed into Israel and murdered their way through towns and villages. More than 250 young men and women were what can only be called executed by the terrorists at a music festival close to the Gaza Strip. The images are of inhumane brutality. Dozens of Israelis, including old people and little children, were abducted and taken to the Gaza Strip. Many of them suffered severe mental and physical injury at the hands of their abductors and were humiliated in the most repugnant way. Well over 1000 Israeli citizens have fallen victim to the terrorist attacks so far. Thousands more have been injured, some of them seriously, and are now fighting for their lives in the country’s hospitals. In a country with nine million inhabitants, this means that virtually everyone knows one of the victims. At this time, the whole of Israel is mourning the dead and fearing for the injured and abducted. Dear friends in Israel, we mourn and fear with you.

Our hearts are heavy in view of the great suffering that terror, hatred and contempt for human life have brought to your country, to Israel. We condemn the terrorists’ violence in the strongest possible terms. And we say very clearly that Israel has the right, enshrined in international law, to defend itself and its citizens against this barbaric attack.

Security in and for Israel must be restored, and that is why Israel must be able to defend itself. There is only one place for Germany at this time, and that is by Israel’s side. This is what we mean when we say: Israel’s security is part of Germany’s raison d’état.

Our own history, our responsibility deriving from the Holocaust, makes it our permanent duty to stand up for the existence and security of the State of Israel. This responsibility guides us.

Our close ties with Israel and its people today are very direct in other ways, too. Many Germans live in Israel, and many of them are nationals of both countries. Many Israelis live here in Germany. Many of us in each country have friends in the other. That is one reason why many Germans were in Israel at the time of the attack. And so there are several Germans among the over 100 hostages taken by Hamas.

Esteemed colleagues, I am grateful that this House responded immediately to the terror attack. Five German parties clearly expressed their solidarity with Israel in a joint statement on Sunday already. And I welcome the cross-party motion to be adopted today. These are important, necessary signs of our solidarity with Israel in the fight against terror.

I also stressed this solidarity when I talked with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the phone on Sunday. I have coordinated closely over the past few days with President Macron, President Biden, Prime Minister Sunak and Prime Minister Meloni as well. We are in full agreement: our countries will support Israel in defending itself and its people against such atrocities. And it is obvious that our solidarity does not stop just at words. I have asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to remain in close contact and to let us know whatever support is needed. I am thinking here, for example, of support for the care of the wounded, but we will examine without delay and also grant other requests for support from Israel.

Esteemed colleagues, our primary concern today is the children, women and men who have been abducted and taken to the Gaza Strip. We are all profoundly concerned about their fate. We fear that in the weeks to come Hamas will continue to abuse them as human shields. And we are doing our absolute utmost to ensure that all the hostages are released – in close coordination with Israel and of course with the necessary confidentiality.

Our second big worry is the regional dimension of the conflict. Although we have no solid evidence so far that Iran provided concrete, operational support for this cowardly attack by Hamas, we are all aware that Hamas would not have been able to carry out these unprecedented attacks on Israeli territory without Iranian support over the past few years. The rejoicing of the leadership of the Iranian regime and some other government representatives in the region is abhorrent. The leadership in Tehran is shamelessly showing its true face, thereby confirming its role in Gaza.

Within the region, we are also looking at southern Lebanon. Like Hamas, Hezbollah has close ties to Iran. It, too, questions Israel’s right to exist. Hezbollah must not intervene in the conflict. That would not only provoke a justified, harsh response from Israel. Lebanon, already destabilised by Hezbollah’s deplorable actions, would be brought to the edge of the abyss. Above all, however, there would be the danger of a devastating conflagration with possible repercussions as far as North Africa and Yemen.

Many countries in the Near and Middle East have already seen great suffering in the past decades. Not even ten years have passed since the atrocities committed by so-called Islamic State, IS. Together with our partners, therefore, we are using every channel open to us to prevent such an apocalyptic scenario. Together we are calling on all countries in the region to abstain from further hostile acts against Israel. Our message is clear: attacking Israel would be an unforgivable mistake.

I am in close contact with Egyptian President al-Sisi, who has channels of communication open with Gaza as well. Later today I will be speaking with Turkey’s President Erdoğan. In addition, I will be meeting the Emir of Qatar, whose country has an important role as a mediator, a role it is actively using these days especially.

All three can play an important part in mediating and de-escalating the current situation. To those who criticise us for such contacts and for the fact that we are talking, I say this: in this dramatic situation, it would be irresponsible not to use every helpful contact we have!

We are doing so, it is worth pointing out, in close coordination with Israel and for the benefit of those who have been kidnapped by Hamas. Next week, moreover, I will be visited by the King of Jordan, who plays a special role in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Ladies and gentlemen, Hamas’s attack on Israel also has consequences for our cooperation with the Palestinians. I have to wonder: where is the clear condemnation of the terrorist violence by the Palestinian Authority and its President, Mahmoud Abbas?

I say: their silence is shameful!

We are reviewing our entire development cooperation with the Palestinian territories. Our yardstick will be whether and how our projects support peace in the region and best serve Israel’s security. As we have done to date, we will discuss this with the Israeli Government, which in the past has been interested in many of our projects. We will not be able to make any new development cooperation funding available until this review has been completed.

Our humanitarian assistance provides more than half of the population, mainly in the Gaza Strip, with the most basic necessities: food and elementary healthcare. Hamas, on the other hand, offers nothing but poverty and suffering.

Hamas is not acting in the interests of the Palestinian people. And, unfortunately, it is very likely that the suffering and hardship of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip will increase further. Hamas, with its attack on Israel, bears responsibility for this, too.

Esteemed colleagues, even if we find it difficult at present given the terrible reports and images coming out of Israel and the Gaza Strip: we also have to look at the long-term prospects for the Near and Middle East. There have certainly been changes for the better in the region in recent times: the normalisation of relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020, the end of the Qatar crisis in 2021, the re-establishment of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia in 2023, and most recently the chance of a normalisation of relations also between Israel and Saudi Arabia. We must not allow terrorism to destroy these positive developments. And that may be the actual purpose of this terror.

That is all the more reason to step up our diplomatic efforts to find solutions for the many conflicts in the region. We will not abandon our goal of ensuring that one day our Israeli friends and the Palestinians who want peace can live side by side and without terror, even if today that seems further away than ever.

Esteemed colleagues, during the last few days thousands of citizens have, in the truest sense of the word, been flying the flag for Israel here in Berlin and in other German cities. The blue and white flags with the Star of David in front of the Brandenburg Gate have sent a positive message of solidarity, friendship and our special connection with Israel into the world. Last weekend, however, there were other shameful images from Germany, too, images of men and women celebrating the acts of terror by Hamas, giving free rein to their hatred of Israel and of our Jewish fellow citizens. That is despicable. That is inhumane. It runs contrary to all the values to which we as a country are committed. We will not stand by and do nothing in the face of hatred and hate speech!

We will not tolerate antisemitism. We will show zero tolerance towards antisemites and our security authorities must and will take resolute action!

Anyone who glorifies Hamas’s crimes or uses their symbols is committing an offence in Germany. Anyone who endorses murder and manslaughter or incites crimes is committing an offence. Anyone who burns Israeli flags is committing an offence. Anyone who supports a terrorist organisation such as Hamas is committing an offence.

The law enforcement agencies at both federal and Land level will bring anyone who does this to justice – using all the means available to our robust constitutional state.

These means explicitly include bans on associations and activities. The Federal Ministry of the Interior will ban any activities by Hamas in Germany.

An association such as Samidoun, whose members are celebrating the most brutal acts of terror in broad daylight, will be outlawed in Germany.

Our law of association is an effective instrument and we, as a strong constitutional state, intend to make use of it.

What is more, we stepped up the protection of Jewish and Israeli institutions in Germany immediately after the terrorist attack against Israel began. Unfortunately, this is necessary; after all, antisemitic hatred and hate speech laying the blame for the attacks on Israel are circulating on the internet and on social media. To that I say: this is a victim-perpetrator reversal of the most perfidious nature.

During the last few years, I have often spoken to those in positions of responsibility in Israel, including members of the current government. I have always addressed controversial issues such as the settlement policy or the dwindling prospect of a two-state solution. However, nothing can even remotely justify violence against innocent women and men! Nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify Hamas’s acts of terror!

These attacks cannot be relativised. Every “yes, but” is totally out of place in view of the terrorists’ brutality and contempt for human life, esteemed colleagues.

The Federal President and you, too, Madam President, have called on us to be vigilant and to stand firmly shoulder to shoulder with the citizens of Israel, who are under attack. We do that today and will continue to do so in future by unequivocally stating our commitment to Israel’s security and by protecting our Jewish fellow citizens. We do this due to the responsibility arising from our history and to our close ties and friendship with the Jewish State of Israel.

Thank you very much.