Continuing controversy surrounds German mission to Middle East

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Repeated incidents of controversial approaches of Israeli F-16 jets to German military vessels, as well as claims of the opposition parties that Angela Merkel's government had tricked them into approving Germany's Lebanon mission cause ongoing controversies surrounding the historical deployment of Bundeswehr troops to the Middle East.

The latest event to hit the headlines today was an encounter of a German helicopter with two Israeli jets off the Lebanese coast during the night of Thursday to Friday. While a speaker of the German Ministry of Defence described this incident as 'not threatening', it occurred only shortly after the German Minister of Defence, Franz Josef Jung, was assured by his Israeli counterpart, Amir Perez, that no such approaches would be carried out any more. Previous events include Israeli jets aiming at a helicopter carrying the German commander of the UNIFIL sea forces and six F-16 passing a German vessel in low altitude presumably firing two rounds above it.

Meanwhile, German State Secretary of Defence Peter Wichert is said to be under pressure over a growing row surrounding the German UNIFIL mandate: opposition politicians accuse the government of having misinformed them prior to the parliamentary approved for the Lebanon mission regarding the constraints of the German forces UN mandate. In particular, limited freedom to act within the 6-miles-zone of the Lebanese coast is seen as endangering the efficiency and feasibility of the Bundeswehr controlling arms smuggling. Peter Wichert apparently was responsible for an unclear statement which Angela Merkel supposedly sees as the cause of the current conflict.