Nicaragua's lawsuit against Germany for supporting Israel is unfounded. But the federal government has to choose between two things.

German and Israeli flags fly in front of the plane in Tel Aviv from which Annalena Baerbock disembarks

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock upon her arrival in Israel at the end of March 2024. Photo: Christoph Soeder/dpa

Yes, Germany has a double standard. Israel is evaluated differently than other states. That is also fine, and even a political and moral obligation for the nation that committed the Holocaust. In 2008, then-Chancellor Angela Merkel introduced the formulation that Israel's security was part of Germany's raison d'état. That sounded good in a way, it just seemed to highlight Germany's special responsibility and, above all, it meant nothing concrete.

But reasons of state, a term that has fortunately fallen out of fashion, refers to general reasons why a state may violate existing law.. That doesn't sound so good anymore. And it means something.

Everyone knows the special nature of Germany's relationship with Israel, and almost no one resents Germany applying special standards to the actions of the Israeli government. But the fact that Germany, despite “reasons of state”, always acts as if this were not the case at all, as if international law naturally applied equally to everyone and as if German arms shipments to Israel were subject to the same criteria, is greatly losing credibility due to their intellectual dishonesty.

The lawsuit is an attempt by the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship to establish itself as a “brave” Palestinian defender in the Global South.

The lawsuit against Germany that Nicaragua has now presented before the International Court of Justice in The Hague is completely unfounded. This is clearly not about the civilians in Gaza, but rather the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship's attempt to establish itself as a “brave” Palestinian defender in the Global South.

However, the lawsuit is a symptom of how isolated Germany and the United States are. Precisely because they are Israel's strongest allies and most important weapons suppliers, the world is watching closely to see whether they actually use their influence over the government in Jerusalem. And so far the world sees nothing.

Credibility or reason of state?

Germany has to decide: Is it possible to find a form of unconditional solidarity with Israel that does not automatically mean accepting any action by a partly far-right and deeply racist Israeli government? That would mean conditioning aid.

Or does Germany really want to define “reason of state” as a violation of the law that is justifiable for compelling reasons? That would mean completely losing credibility in the international defense of a “rules-based world order.”

By the way, the USA faces the same dilemma, except that there it is only about presidential elections, while in Germany the correct lessons of the past are negotiated.

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