In 1993, Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat in front of the White House in Washington, DC. The photo was beamed around the world and peace seemed possible. Thirty years later, the Middle East conflict has still not been resolved and continues to claim many lives. What can Germany do together with its partners in Europe and the region to deescalate the situation? Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is inviting French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, her Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to Berlin today to discuss precisely this question.
Even if it has not been possible to resolve the conflict by diplomatic means so far, looking the other way and standing idly by are not an alternative. It is the task of diplomacy to come up with solutions even in hopeless conflict situations. The Federal Government believes that there is no way around a political, negotiated two‑state solution to the conflict – an agreement on the basis of which Israelis and Palestinians are able to live in peace and security. The fact that this conflict has been going on for decades makes us all the more aware of how urgent internationally coordinated diplomatic engagement is in this case.
The Munich format: A European-Arab interface
The Munich format consists of four countries: Germany, France, Egypt and Jordan. It is currently the only forum in which European and Arab partners cooperate with regard to the Middle East conflict. The Middle East Quartet, consisting of the UN, the EU, the US and Russia, has been stalled ever since the beginning of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. For Germany and France, the current assessments of the situation by Jordan and Egypt are particularly helpful. As immediate neighbours, these two countries are directly affected by the fallout from the Middle East conflict.
The members of the Munich format all want to promote lasting peace and stability in the region. They each have strong relations with the parties to the conflict, both in the region and beyond. As a European-Arab interface, they stand ready to support Israelis and Palestinians in breaking the logic of violence in this conflict.
Particularly in the context of the Jewish/Muslim holidays in April, international cooperation managed to prevent a more serious escalation between Israelis and Palestinians. The Aqaba Process, launched under the auspices of the US, made an important contribution in which Jordan and Egypt also played a pivotal role. The Aqaba Process has a strong focus on security and works to promote crisis management. The Munich format takes a longer-term approach with a view to keeping the door open to a political solution to the conflict.
What about the two‑state solution?
A two‑state solution to the Middle East conflict remains within the bounds of the possible. However, the obstacles to implementing such a solution are considerable as this would entail immense political costs for both parties to the conflict. The members of the Munich format are aware of these difficult conditions. However, in the view of the Federal Government, the two‑state solution is and remains the best basis for the Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security. Even though such a solution is not imminent, the members of the Munich format are working to ensure that the door to it is at least kept open.