Wolfgang Ischinger was born right after the end of World War II. His first day of a five-year term as German ambassador to the United States began on 9/11.
In-between, Ischinger had decades of diplomatic deployments, and he’s currently chairman of the Munich Security Conference.
“It is a miracle that I can stand here today and be received as a friend, and that’s the same feeling that we have with Israel,” Ischinger said.
Referring to former German President Johannes Rau, who visited Israel 34 times, he added: “I don’t think he’s the only German politician who’s made the reconciliation process with the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, the relationship with the United States, and the Jewish community here the centerpiece of our effort to hopefully overcome, over time, this terrible tragedy that was caused in the name of our country.”
That effort has extended to the existential threat thought to be posed by Iran.
“Germany is not a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, but we have made the best effort we were able to make a united front,” Ischinger said, before turning to the touchy topic of Germany selling Israel nuclear-capable submarines.
“I think the majority of Germans believe that this is the right thing for us to do. To make sure that whatever else happens in the region, that Israel cannot be attacked with any prospect of success. On the contrary, if anyone wanted to attack Israel, they would need to consider their own destruction as the consequence. We know why we’re doing it: Not only because we believe that this is important for the preservation of peace — and hopefully the creation of a better peace in the region — but also because we believe that there is a special kind of historic responsibility.”
Perhaps sensing that commenting on the tense situation in Iran wasn’t the way he wanted wrap up his remarks, Ischinger ended the same way he began — with an historical perspective.
“I want to leave you with a message of optimism, not of depressing thoughts,” he said.
“I think the world, led by the United States, more than any other country, has been on the course of progress over the last four or five or six decades,” he continued, noting that deaths from warfare have continually declined.
And speaking of the West in general, Ischinger said, “Many in the world are expecting us to speak up for tolerance, for the respect of the rule of law, against discrimination and for peace.”
John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.