Ten days after the Hamas terrorist attack, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) assured Israel of Germany’s full solidarity during a visit to Tel Aviv.

“The security of Israel and its citizens is German raison d’etre,” he said on Tuesday after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. “Our responsibility arising from the Holocaust makes it our task to stand up for the existence and security of the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu also recalled the Holocaust with harsh words and compared Hamas’ murders with the Nazi massacres: “Hamas are the new Nazis,” he said. The visit was interrupted twice by rocket alarms. The Chancellor had to barricade himself in a shelter for several minutes at a time.

Netanyahu compares Hamas killings to Nazi massacres

Due to the state of emergency throughout the country, Scholz and Netanyahu did not meet in the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem as usual but in the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv. These days, dozens of reservists are queuing up in the entrance hall to report for military service. It was a rarity that Netanyahu even appeared in front of the press with Scholz after the conversation. This hasn’t happened since the terrorist attacks. However, questions from journalists were not allowed.

Netanyahu said Hamas’s atrocities were the worst crimes against Jews since the Nazi genocide. He compared it to the massacre in the Babyn Yar ravine near Kiev, where around 33,000 Jews were executed and buried within a short period of time in 1941.

“This is an atrocity that we remember only from the Nazi crimes during the Holocaust,” Netanyahu said of Hamas crimes. He also compared the organization to the terrorist network Islamic State (IS). Netanyahu demanded that the world must help Israel destroy Hamas.

Conversation with opposition leader in the embassy shelter

While the two heads of government were briefing journalists, the greater Tel Aviv area was fired at twice with rockets. In the city center itself, no warning sirens were initially heard, but two loud explosions were heard. As the Chancellor’s column left the Ministry of Defense, missiles from the Iron Dome protective shield, which is intended to protect the metropolis from Hamas attacks, could be heard.

Then there were the rocket alarms in the embassy. The first took place during a conversation with the opposition politician Benny Gantz, which then continued in the shelter. The second shortly before an EU video summit, which Scholz took part in from Tel Aviv.

No hesitation: This time Scholz is the first

Scholz is one of the first heads of government to visit Israel after the Hamas attacks – ahead of US President Joe Biden, who is expected in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. That is not by accident.

As early as 2008, then-Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) declared Israel’s security to be a reason of state in a speech to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. Scholz has made this his own. Now it is important to show what reason of state means in a specific attack.

And Scholz doesn’t want to be accused of being hesitant again like he did after the Russian attack on Ukraine. Back then, it took almost four months for him to take the train to Kiev. At this point, a number of heads of state and government and even opposition leader Friedrich Merz (CDU) had already been there. Now Scholz is one of the very first of his rank to show his solidarity on site.

German support for military strikes against Hamas

Netanyahu made it very clear at the meeting that Israel primarily expects him to provide support for its military strikes against Hamas. Scholz has promised this again and again in the past few days – without restrictions or references to international law. “It is completely clear that Israel has the right under international law to defend itself against this terror,” he said again in Tel Aviv. “Every state has a duty to protect its citizens.”

The Israelis, however, hardly expect any military support from Germany. Two leased Israeli drones, which can also be armed, were returned by the Bundeswehr. According to the federal government, Israel has now postponed an application for the supply of ammunition for warships.

Specifically, it is now primarily about humanitarian aid for the people in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of thousands of whom have been asked by Israel to flee before a possible ground offensive. Scholz emphasized on Tuesday that Germany would continue to provide such help to the suffering people in Gaza. And he said: “We are committed to ensuring that there is humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip.” This should also be a focus when US President Biden comes to Israel on Wednesday.

Efforts to rescue hostages: “Only Scholz can save Shani”

Last but not least, Scholz’s Middle East mission is about the release of the around 200 Hamas hostages kidnapped in the Gaza Strip – including several Germans with whom the federal government has no contact. Scholz met with their relatives in Tel Aviv. Friends of the abducted Shani Louk stood in front of the embassy with a poster: “Only Scholz can save Shani” – “Only Scholz can save Shani”.

The hostages will also be discussed when Scholz meets Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday in Cairo, the second stop on his Middle East trip. The Chancellor is betting that Egypt can assert its influence over Hamas.