Two prime ministers and a king. For a traveling German minister, that’s not a bad record. Robert Habeck is the statesman on his Middle East tour – and navigates through difficult terrain.

Robert Habeck feels normal. When his own status becomes too obvious, the German vice chancellor makes a flippant remark.

On his trip to the Middle East he had plenty of opportunity for this ironic distance: in four days he met, among others, the Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Schtaje and in Jordan King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein. All interlocutors in an upper political weight class.

One perceives Habeck here as Vice Chancellor

Habeck may be Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection in his main job, but on his tour of Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan he is also perceived as the German Vice Chancellor. In Israel, Habeck, who is otherwise so eloquent, is on the move with the rhetorical handbrake on – apparently nothing should go wrong. He doesn’t shy away from any journalists’ question here either, only some of the cumbersome answers leave you at a loss.

The visit to the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem touches him deeply. When he read the poem by the Jewish poet Paul Celan, which he wrote in the guest book, his voice broke several times. “As absurd as that sounds,” he said, shaped his understanding of the Holocaust, the German murder of six million Jews.

First Jerusalem, then Ramallah

Habeck made his first appearance with a politician from his host region with the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Schtaje in Ramallah, at the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority – after his meetings with Israeli colleagues the day before, he had always appeared alone in front of the cameras. He describes him as a “dear friend” and immediately tries to monopolize him for his own cause: They stand firmly together with Germany “in the protection of international law, human rights and also in the call for a two-state solution”. On the other hand, he accuses Israel of undermining the formation of an independent Palestinian state and of deliberately killing civilians in the Palestinian territories.

Allegations that Habeck counters with a reference to the responsibility of both sides and the demand for “pragmatic solutions”. After all, German development aid could flow into solar systems in refugee camps, he thinks aloud.

Habeck: Israelis should be careful

The press conference is actually already over without Habeck having run aground in the depths of the Middle East conflict when he speaks again. The Israelis should be careful what they do in the Palestinian territories and the Palestinians should stop the violence in Israel, where recent attacks have repeatedly killed people. “Please try to understand that the loss and the feelings and the emotions are on the other side too.” The Middle East conflict is no closer to a solution, but Habeck has at least made it clear that he does not want to take sides unilaterally.

A pet project that Habeck keeps coming back to is an energy project that Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed to in November. Israel is to supply Jordan with desalinated water and receive solar power in return. For this purpose, a solar power plant is to be built in the Jordanian desert, which will be financed with money from the UAE.

Energy project aims to unite region

Change through trade – hasn’t that already failed with Russia? Here things could be different, Habeck believes, because many could benefit from the generation of energy from wind and sun, while the exploitation of fossil energies often only benefits a few powerful people.

Absolutely solar power. “I’m from Germany,” said Habeck at the opening of a Jordanian-German energy conference in a luxury hotel on the Dead Sea. “We pave our landscape with solar panels and the sun doesn’t shine half as much as it does in your region.” Solar power and CO2-free hydrogen are needed for the energy transition. This could also bring prosperity to the region.

Treffen mit König Abdullah II.

Habeck also met King Abdullah II of Jordan and Crown Prince Hussein. At a German-Jordanian university, he listened to the complaints of students complaining about high hurdles if they wanted to gain work experience in Germany after their studies.

On Thursday morning, Habeck stands next to a garbage dump and watches Syrian refugees sorting and compacting garbage in a project of the German Society for International Cooperation.

More than half of the almost 40,000 people in the Jordanian refugee camp Asrak are children or young people and they have few prospects. Many have been there since 2013, say employees of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Job opportunities in Jordan are limited. Habeck hugs children, talks to employees and a refugee family.

At the end of the trip, the green man stopped by the soldiers at the Jordanian air force base Al-Asrak and thanked the German Bundeswehr soldiers stationed there for their commitment. «I was here in the region. It would have been absurd to drive past here without once saying thank you for what you are doing for Germany – what you are doing here for peace in the region.”