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A Loyal Israel Ally, Germany Shifts Tone as the Toll in Gaza Mounts

WorldA Loyal Israel Ally, Germany Shifts Tone as the Toll in Gaza Mounts

Days after Hamas launched its Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, was one of the first Western leaders to arrive in Tel Aviv. Standing beside the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, he declared that Germany had “only one place — and it is alongside Israel.”

That place now feels increasingly awkward for Germany, Israel’s second-largest arms supplier and a nation whose leadership calls support for the country a “Staatsräson,” a national reason for existence, as a way of atoning for the Holocaust.

Last week, with Israel’s deadly offensive continuing in Gaza, the chancellor again stood next to Mr. Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, and struck a different tone. “No matter how important the goal,” he asked, “can it justify such terribly high costs?”

With international outrage growing over a death toll that Gazan health authorities say exceeds 32,000, and the looming prospect of famine in the enclave, German officials have begun to question whether their country’s support has gone too far.

“What changed for Germany is that it’s untenable, this unconditional support for Israel,” said Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin. “In sticking to this notion of Staatsräson, they gave the false impression that Germany actually offered carte blanche to Netanyahu.”

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