“What we need now is a way out of the violence”

13.05.2021 - Interview

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in an interview with the Funke Mediengruppe.

Mr Maas, who is responsible for the escalating violence in the Middle East?

Hamas deliberately brought about the most recent escalation when it indiscriminately fired more than 1000 rockets at Israeli cities, knowing full well what the consequences would be. Anyone who acts with such recklessness also bears responsibility for the terrible humanitarian consequences that hundreds of thousands of people on both sides are now suffering. Israel is defending itself because it has to.

Is there now the risk of conflagration?

I hope that more countries are not drawn into the conflict. But in past escalations we have seen how, ultimately, it is always civilians and especially children on both sides who pay the highest price – and we’ve seen how it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a way out of the conflict.

What needs to happen now?

What we need now is a way out of the violence. What that could look like is the focus of all of our talks right now. Clearly, the firing of rockets must cease and international humanitarian law must be respected. We all know that the conflict in the Middle East cannot be resolved through violence, but only by political means. In recent months, we have indeed seen confidence‑building steps on the part of Israel and the Palestinians. That’s what we need to return to.

What is Germany doing to contribute to a solution?

We are using all our channels to help ease this situation. Since the weekend, I have been in constant contact with my colleagues in the region. Our partners in the Middle East peace process – France, Jordan and Egypt – are, for their part, using their own channels. In the longer term, we are trying, through this group, to support steps that will bring Israel and the Palestinian leadership back to the negotiating table. As we see it, only with a negotiated two‑state solution will there be any hope of ending, once and for all, the constantly recurring cycles of violence.

Israeli flags have been burned in front of several synagogues in Germany. Why is the state not preventing this from happening?

In our country, there must be zero tolerance regarding attacks on synagogues. And it is up to all of us to make clear that we will not accept people of Jewish faith in Germany being held accountable for events in the Middle East – neither in the streets nor on social media. As deplorable as it may be that such action is even necessary, the state absolutely has to guarantee the safety of the synagogues.


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