EXCLUSIVE — In a DW interview, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urges 'international responsibility' in Gaza

1 week ago 7

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for the international community to do more to de-escalate the conflict in the Middle East in an interview with DW on Monday.

Baerbock has visited Israel three times since the conflict broke out on October 7 when the Palestinian militant-Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking some 240 hostages.

In response, Israel launched an aerial assault and a large-scale ground operation in Gaza. According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, over 13,000 people have been killed in Gaza.

Speaking with DW's Jaafar Abdul-Karim, Baerbock defended Germany's opposition to a long-term cease-fire, and emphasized that the priority needs to be on getting humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza.

More action needed from international community

"In order to ensure security, we need international responsibility," Baerbock told DW.

The German foreign minister noted that the international community has assumed a similar responsibility in other recent conflicts.

"We've learned this from the terrible wars in Europe's Western Balkans. There, too, the international community assumed a responsibility to protect. It was also a situation where the worst crimes had been committed, and actors in the region had simply lost all trust. I see the same thing there [in the Middle East]," she said.

Calls have been growing internationally for an immediate cease-fire. However, Germany, the United States, United Kingdom and European Union have instead urged for shorter "humanitarian pauses" to allow much-needed aid into Gaza, arguing that a longer cease-fire could give Hamas time to regroup.

"For a cease-fire, Israel and Hamas would have to agree to stop shooting at each other. That would mean Israel would no longer be able to defend itself amid the ongoing barrage of missiles," Baerbock said, adding that "Israel has to protect its population."

Baerbock rejects calls for ceasefire in Gaza

People in Gaza 'must be protected'

Baerbock emphasized that Germany is working with the US and several Arab countries "to do everything possible to ensure the people in Gaza have safe places where they won't be killed, where they can access clean drinking water, medication."

During a trip to Israel last month shortly after the conflict broke out, Baerbock said she told the Israeli government "that the people in Gaza must be protected."

"Their fight is with a terrorist organization, Hamas, who want to destroy Israel, and not with civilians in Gaza, innocent people, women and children, innocent Palestinians," she said.

Germany, along with Israel, the European Union, the United States and others, classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock gestures during a DW interview in Berlin with Jaafar Abdul-KarimGermany's top diplomat spoke with DW's Jaafar Abdul-Karim in BerlinImage: Ronka Oberhammer/DW

Baerbock also voiced criticism of the Israeli government's settlement policy in the occupied West Bank, which has been classified as illegal under international law by the International Court of Justice.

She urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do more to condemn violent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank.

"Israel's Prime Minister must condemn settler violence. It must be criminally prosecuted. This is also in Israel's security interest. In terms of security in the West Bank, Israel is also responsible for ensuring the situation there does not escalate further," she said.

Criticism of Germany's support of Israel is 'unsettling'

Germany, which is one of Israel's closest allies, has faced growing criticism from groups both at home and abroad over its stance on the war, with some accusing the German government of turning a blind eye to the situation in Gaza by staunchly backing Israel.

Baerbock said she found the criticism to be "extremely unsettling" and pointed to Germany's historic and moral responsibility to the Jewish people and the Israeli state as a result of World War II and the atrocities committed during the Holocaust.

"We are committed to international law, and we are committed to our German responsibility. And that that means giving Jewish men and women, whom Germany had tried to annihilate under the Nazi dictatorship, a safe country. That is the state of Israel, and that's why Israel's security is Germany's 'reason of state,'" she said.

The term "reason of state" or "Staatsräson" is used to express Germany's commitment to Israel as a fundamental part of Germany's very present-day existence.

Baerbock said that Germany's support of Israel "in no way contradicts standing up for international humanitarian law, and for the universality of human rights."

"That is why I have been making it so clear that each life is equally valuable, that the dreadful images of Palestinian children keep me up at night just as much as the thought of Israeli children having been kidnapped."

Interview conducted by DW's Jaafar Abdul-Karim

Edited by Rob Turner

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