Assistance from Algeria to Sudan

Germany to help Israelis stuck in unfriendly countries

Tourists having trouble in one of the 30 states with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations will no longer be on their own

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

German Ambassador to Israel Andreas Michaelis, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, August 17, 2011. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)
German Ambassador to Israel Andreas Michaelis, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, August 17, 2011. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

Germany has offered to provide consular services for Israelis who get in trouble in countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations. Berlin’s overture, which was discussed this week by diplomatic officials from both countries in Tel Aviv, comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations in 2015.

So far no agreement has been signed as the precise arrangements have yet to be worked out, but officials from both countries said they favor the proposal and will want to make it official in the near future.

“On the background of their very painful history, Germans and Israelis achieved the miracle in building a friendship. We want to expand and deepen this friendship — even regarding concrete issues of daily life,” Germany’s ambassador in Israel, Andreas Michaelis, told The Times of Israel. “If we as Germans can assist Israeli citizens abroad where the State of Israel is unable to, this for us as would be a great sign of trust.”

Israeli officials also welcomed the German initiative: “It strikes us as a very positive suggestion and we will now work on the agreement because they are technical issues that need to be worked out,” Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, said Thursday.

Israel has diplomatic relations with 159 countries and forbids citizens from entering six enemy states, which leaves about 30 nations where Israelis could find themselves without any diplomatic or consular representation. Canada traditionally represents Israeli citizens’ interests in Cuba, but in most other countries Israelis are without an official address to which they could turn in an hour of need.

Germany and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1965. Ahead of the upcoming jubilee, Berlin and Jerusalem are discussing various ways to deepen bilateral cooperation, especially in fields that improve citizens’ daily lives, according to German diplomatic officials.

Berlin’s offer of assistance, presented this week by the German foreign ministry’s director-general for legal and consular affairs, Franz-Josef Kremp, would not extend to issuing new passports to Israelis, German embassy officials in Tel Aviv said. Rather, the assistance would include help for tourists who have lost money, their travel documents or cell phones, or have become sick or injured and need to fly back home, as well as taking care of prisoners and repatriation of the bodies of Israelis who died abroad.

Last summer, the German consul in Tanzania provided assistance to two Israelis who were on a ferry that sank in the African country.

According to Israeli law, citizens are prohibited from going to Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Yemen.

Theoretically, Israelis are allowed to visit and establish personal and business ties in all other countries, regardless of whether Israel has diplomatic relations with them. However, the National Security Council regularly issues travel warnings for certain countries deemed unsafe for Israelis for various reasons, which currently include Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Kenya, as well as many Arab and Muslim states such as Sudan, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Libya, Morocco, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Tunisia and Turkey.

Morocco, Tunisia and Oman used to have limited relations with Israel but suspended them in 2000. Niger severed ties 2002. Venezuela, Bolivia and Mauritania cut diplomatic relations in early 2009 in the wake of Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza.

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