While war rages in Europe, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is going to Israel for a snap visit on Tuesday
It comes after Israel’s Foreign Minster Yair Lapid spoke with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, about Israel’s offer of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
The visit is significant because of Germany’s anti-semitic past. Israel will always be marked by the Shoah, Nazi Germany’s mass murder of 6 million Jews. And yet the relationship has developed impressively since 1965, the year full diplomatic relations were established between the two countries.
Often described as predictable and “robotic”, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has become emboldened since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, smashing policy taboos to steer Germany into “a new era” that could reshape its role on the world stage.
Just a few weeks ago, German media were openly asking “where is Scholz?”, slamming the Social Democrat’s perceived lack of leadership on pressing issues like the coronavirus pandemic and worsening Ukraine crisis.
But Moscow’s attack on Ukraine last week has jolted the chancellor into action, culminating in what commentators have called a “historic” speech on Sunday.
Scholz, who has only been in office three months, spoke with uncharacteristic clarity when he unveiled a slew of defence and foreign policy shifts that promise to upend Germany’s decades-long reluctance to raising its military profile.
Addressing an emergency parliamentary session, Scholz told the nation that “we are now in a new era”.
In a country haunted by post-war guilt, Scholz assured Germans that they were “on the right side of history” as Ukraine’s allies.
Among the headline-grabbing announcements was a pledge to earmark 100 billion euros ($113 billion) this year alone to modernise the chronically underfunded the army, called the Bundeswehr.
Scholz also said that Europe’s biggest economy would commit to spending more than two percent of Germany’s gross domestic product on defence annually, surpassing even NATO’s target.
After facing criticism for refusing to send weapons to Kyiv, unlike other Western allies, Scholz said Berlin will supply Ukraine with 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles from Bundeswehr stocks.
Berlin also approved the delivery of 400 RPGs from the Netherlands and a request by Estonia to pass on old GDR howitzers to Ukraine.