German Official Seeks Halt to Mideast Arms Exports

YERUSHALAYIM -

A high-ranking official in Germany’s second biggest political party, the Social Democrats, has come out against arms deals to countries in the Mideast, including Israel, The Times of Israel reported on Monday.

Ralf Stegner, the deputy chairman of the center-left Social Democratic Party, or SPD, said in an interview that “Germany must not deliver weapons to conflict areas and to dictators. What about Saudi Arabia? What about Qatar? I am also asking: What about Israel?”

Stegner, whose party is part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, later stressed that his remarks should not be construed as being anti-Israel. “I’m just against arms exports into crisis areas and dictatorships!” he said.

Stegner acknowledged that Germany has a special responsibility for Israel’s security, according to the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “But I don’t have the impression that weapons in the Middle East contribute to solving the problem.”

His comments drew fire from other German politicians. “Israel is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East and a friendly state. Due to our history, Israel enjoys special care,” said Florian Hahn, defense spokesman for the CSU party, which is close to Merkel’s Christian Democrats. Therefore, he said, Israel’s arms purchases must be evaluated differently from other states in the region.