Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Up until now at least, there also had been a gradual de-emphasis of the Palestinian issue by governments, said Kristina Kausch, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

She attributed that de-emphasis partly to Israel’s shelved plans to annex the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want as part of their own ambitions for an independent state, and to the 2020 Abraham Accords, Israel’s normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, all big defenders of Palestinian rights. Ms. Kausch said there had been a sense that “the Palestinian cause can be put on the back burner, that Arab countries and people don’t care anymore.”

But this new outbreak, Ms. Kausch said, had shown “that the Palestinian cause is alive and kicking.” And no longer ignorable, at least for a while.

Julien Barnes-Dacey, director of the Middle East and North Africa program for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

At the beginning of this conflict, he said, the United States and Europe had been “largely sympathetic to the Israeli narrative, willing to give them some space to accomplish their military ambitions.”

similar two-page resolution passed by the Security Council during another fierce Gaza war in January 2009, and on which the United States abstained.

The draft resolution seeks a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access to Gaza, the condemnation of the rocket barrages and any incitement to violence, the official said.

In Germany, traditional support for Israel and patience with its military campaign appears to be waning.

After speaking with Mr. Netanyahu on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel “sharply condemned the continued rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and assured the prime minister of the German government’s solidarity,” said her spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

But given the many civilian lives lost “on both sides,” Mr. Seibert said, “the chancellor expressed her hope that the fighting will end as soon as possible.”

Mr. Maas, the German foreign minister, said on Tuesday that “ending the violence in the Middle East is the first priority,” followed by political negotiations. But he also blamed Hamas for the escalation.

He appeared to be responding to domestic criticism that the government has been too lenient in the face of pro-Palestinian and sometimes anti-Semitic protests.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that Germany should “concentrate on internal affairs and reflect that the ‘welcome culture’ extended to refugees was astoundingly naïve when it came to anti-Semitism.”

The question for Germany now, the paper said, “is how do we teach those for whom a hatred of Israel is in their DNA that Israel’s security is part of their adopted homeland’s raison d’être?”

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, and Jim Tankersley and Katie Rogers from Washington. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.

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New Political Pressures Push U.S. and Europe to Stop Israel-Gaza Conflict

BRUSSELS — A diplomatic flurry from the White House and Europe added pressure on Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday to halt their 10-day-old conflict before it turned into a war entangling more of the Middle East.

President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel — their second phone call in three days — telling the Israeli leader he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” administration officials said. Although they portrayed the call as consistent with what Mr. Biden had been saying, his decision to set a deadline was an escalation. .

And in Europe, France and Germany, both strong allies of Israel that had initially held back from pressuring Mr. Netanyahu in the early days of the conflict, intensified their push for a cease-fire.

French diplomats sought to advance their proposed United Nations Security Council resolution that would call on the antagonists to stop fighting and to allow unfettered humanitarian access to Gaza. It remained unclear on Wednesday if the United States, which has blocked all Security Council attempts to even issue a statement condemning the violence, would go along with the French resolution.

Twitter post afterward, he said “I especially appreciate the support of our friend @POTUS Joe Biden, for the State of Israel’s right to self-defense.”

confronted Mr. Biden during his trip to a Ford plant, and pleaded with him to address the growing violence in the region and protect Palestinian lives.

Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan, who witnessed that interaction, said in an interview on Wednesday that Mr. Netanyahu’s reluctance to negotiate a cease-fire had made it harder for Democrats across the political spectrum to defend Israel’s actions.

Some saw the second phone call between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu as messaging to placate domestic constituents.

Democrats have been pushing Mr. Biden “to take a tougher line and this was his opportunity to demonstrate that he is doing so,” said Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington group that supports Mr. Netanyahu’s policies. He also said Mr. Netanyahu “does not want to give the impression that he’s been told to end this conflict before it’s the right time to do so.”

For European nations, the intensified push for a cease-fire also is based partly on political calculations.

pro-Palestinian demonstrations have sometimes turned into anti-Israeli protests, including attacks on synagogues. Governments fear such protests and internal violence will worsen the longer the conflict lasts.

France is on alert for acts of Islamist terrorism, often from French-born Muslims outraged by events in the Middle East. Germany, which welcomed a million mostly Muslim migrants in 2005, is struggling to contain their anger about Israel.

At the same time, the election of Mr. Trump in 2016 also encouraged a right-wing European populism that is anti-immigration and often anti-Islamic, with a clear political identification with “Judeo-Christian values’’ and strong support for Israel. That is clear in France, with the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, as well as in Germany, with the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Up until now at least, there also had been a gradual de-emphasis of the Palestinian issue by governments, said Kristina Kausch, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

She attributed that de-emphasis partly to Israel’s shelved plans to annex the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want as part of their own ambitions for an independent state, and to the 2020 Abraham Accords, Israel’s normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, all big defenders of Palestinian rights. Ms. Kausch said there had been a sense that “the Palestinian cause can be put on the back burner, that Arab countries and people don’t care anymore.”

But this new outbreak, Ms. Kausch said, had shown “that the Palestinian cause is alive and kicking.’’ And no longer ignorable, at least for a while.

Julien Barnes-Dacey, director of the Middle East and North Africa program for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

At the beginning of this conflict, he said, the United States and Europe had been “largely sympathetic to the Israeli narrative, willing to give them some space to accomplish their military ambitions.’’

similar two-page resolution passed by the Security Council during another fierce Gaza war in January 2009, and on which the United States abstained.

The draft resolution seeks a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access to Gaza, the condemnation of the rocket barrages and any incitement to violence, the official said.

In Germany, traditional support for Israel and patience with its military campaign appears to be waning.

After speaking with Mr. Netanyahu on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel “sharply condemned the continued rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and assured the prime minister of the German government’s solidarity,” said her spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

But given the many civilian lives lost “on both sides,” Mr. Seibert said, “the chancellor expressed her hope that the fighting will end as soon as possible.”

Mr. Maas, the German foreign minister, said on Tuesday that “ending the violence in the Middle East is the first priority,’’ followed by political negotiations. But he also blamed Hamas for the escalation.

He appeared to be responding to domestic criticism that the government has been too lenient in the face of pro-Palestinian and sometimes anti-Semitic protests.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that Germany should “concentrate on internal affairs and reflect that the ‘welcome culture’ extended to refugees was astoundingly naïve when it came to anti-Semitism.’’

The question for Germany now, the paper said, “is how do we teach those for whom a hatred of Israel is in their DNA that Israel’s security is part of their adopted homeland’s raison d’être?”

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, and Jim Tankersley and Katie Rogers from Washington. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.

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The Refugee Who Fought Germany’s Hard Right

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — The country’s largest-circulation tabloid called him the “scandal asylum seeker” and accused him (falsely) of entering the country illegally. People hacked his social media accounts and broadcast his location and personal information. A far-right political leader decried him as the “ringleader” of a violent protest, while another even suggested people like him would be a good reason to bring back the death penalty in Germany.

Alassa Mfouapon is hardly the first refugee to become sensationalist fodder for tabloids or a convenient scapegoat for far-right, anti-immigration politicians. In the five years since a major wave of refugees arrived in Germany, such portrayals have become commonplace.

But the 31-year-old from Cameroon is the first to take them to court for those depictions — and win.

In the process, he has emerged as an ideological lightning rod in the debate over refugee politics in Germany, his journey highlighting the disconnect between the country’s image on refugee issues and the reality for many of those who seek asylum here.

German court ruled that aspects of the police’s handling of the Ellwangen raid were illegal. The court did not rule entirely in his favor — it said, for example, that his 2018 deportation to Italy was legal, and that people in refugee facilities like Ellwangen cannot expect the same privacy rights as ordinary citizens. But his case has spurred a re-examination of the treatment of the Ellwangen incident in the German news media, drawing more attention to the voices of the refugees involved.

Cases like Mr. Mfouapon’s remain rare, because few refugees want to stand up to the state for fear they will become targets, just as Mr. Mfouapon has.

Mr. Mfouapon returned to Germany in 2019. He and his wife split up, unable to move past the loss of their son. He has added German to his other language skills and, with the help of some activists involved in his petition, applied for and started a training program in media production last year.

He has also launched a refugee advocacy organization to continue drawing awareness to these issues. Speaking out about his experiences is important to him personally, but is also a way to cope with the trauma and loss he has faced.

“All these events in my life, all these things that were happening before — if you want to deal with them, the only way you can do it is to try to go forward,” he said. “To say, ‘I will be fighting for the people who are not yet in this situation, so that what’s happening will not happen to anyone else.’”

He believes Germany needs to re-examine its asylum policy, and is pushing for changes to the Dublin rule. With worsening conditions in his home country and many others, Mr. Mfouapon said, migration issues will only intensify in coming years — and governments like Germany’s need to be ready with better solutions.

“They are trying to stop it, they are not trying to solve it,” he said. “And trying to stop something that’s exploded already — you can’t.”


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German Intelligence Puts Coronavirus Deniers Under Surveillance

BERLIN — Germany’s domestic intelligence service said on Wednesday that it would surveil members of the increasingly aggressive coronavirus denier movement because they posed a risk of undermining the state.

The movement — fueled in part by wild conspiracy theories — has grown from criticizing coronavirus lockdown measures and hygiene rules to targeting the state itself, its leaders, businesses, the press and globalism, to name a few. Over the past year, demonstrators have attacked police officers, defied civil authorities and in one widely publicized episode scaled the steps of Parliament.

“Our basic democratic order, as well as state institutions such as parliaments and governments, have faced multiple attacks since the beginning of the measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement confirming that parts of the denier movement were under observation. The Interior Ministry oversees the intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

In announcing the decision to keep tabs on conspiracy theorists, intelligence officials noted the movement’s close ties to extremists like the Reichsbürger, who refuse to accept the legitimacy of the modern German state.

QAnon conspiracy theories, and protesters are frequently seen holding signs with anti-Semitic tropes.

The movement, called Querdenken, German for lateral thinking, communicates and recruits over social media and has a large presence on the encrypted chat service Telegram, where its main channel has 65,000 subscribers. Parts of AfD, a German right-wing populist party that is also under surveillance, have allied themselves with protesters.

Still, the Interior Ministry took pains to say that the danger from coronavirus deniers and conspiracy theorists does not fit the mold posed by the usual, politically driven groups, including those on the far left and right, or by Islamic extremists. As a result, the authorities are setting up a new department specifically tasked with handling cases that seek to delegitimize the state.

The news comes days after Germany instituted new virus rules that apply nationwide and allow the federal government to enforce lockdowns. (Such regulation had previously been in the hands of the country’s 16 states.) It also suggests that the authorities believe coronavirus denier groups could continue to flourish and pose a threat after the pandemic ends.

Germany has seen a persistently high number of new daily cases recently, averaging about 19,000, up from about 8,000 two months ago.

Last August, when restrictions were relatively light, the deniers drew 40,000 protesters to Berlin. While most were peaceful, even if eschewing masks and social distancing measures, a small number managed to jump police lines and climb Parliament’s outside stairs, a breach of security that President Frank-Walter Steinmeier characterized as an “attack on the heart of democracy.”

The national intelligence agency’s formal observation of the deniers’ group is the first step in a process that could lead to it being declared unconstitutional and ultimately banned.

Pia Lamberty, a psychologist and expert in the German conspiracy scene, warned of connections between the deniers and far-right extremists. “The danger of Querdenken,” she said, “has long been underestimated.”

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Germany Looks Into Covid Deniers’ Links With Far Right

The German domestic intelligence agency is keeping close tabs on a group of coronavirus deniers, who, in their protests against restrictions and tendency to believe in conspiracy theories, have found common cause with far-right extremists.

Government officials said the movement’s close ties to extremist organizations, such as the “Reich citizens” — or “Reichsbürger,” as they are known in German, referring to a group that refuses to accept the legitimacy of the modern German state — were troubling. Many of the coronavirus deniers say they also believe in QAnon conspiracy theories, and protesters are frequently seen holding signs with anti-Semitic tropes. A number of journalists have been attacked while covering the demonstrations.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said in a statement, “Our basic democratic order, as well as state institutions such as parliaments and governments, have faced multiple attacks since the beginning of the measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.” Several regional intelligence agencies have already been observing participants in the movement, he added.

The group of deniers, which started as a fringe movement last spring, has grown into a coordinated effort that organizes mass demonstrations across Germany. The rallies occasionally turn aggressive, and many have ended in scuffles with law enforcement officers.

AfD, a German right-wing populist party, have allied themselves with protesters. The national intelligence agency’s formal observation of the deniers’ group is the first step in a procedure that could lead to it being declared anti-constitutional and ultimately banned.

A week ago, about 8,000 people in Berlin protested the passing of a law that gives the federal government power to implement tougher restrictions. Germany has seen a persistently high average number of new daily cases recently, averaging about 18,000 a day, according to a New York Times database, up from about 8,000 a day two months ago.

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Chancellor’s Race Presents Germans With a Challenge to Change

“A Green candidacy for chancellor stands for a new understanding of political leadership,” Ms. Baerbock said. “Decisive and transparent, capable of learning and self-critical. Democracy thrives on change.”

Although the two leading candidates are the strongest contenders for the race, Germany’s finance minister, Olaf Scholz, 64, is also in the running for the Social Democrats. Traditionally the rivals of the Christian Democrats, with an emphasis on a strong safety net, the party has spent the past eight years relegated to being a junior partner in the chancellor’s governments.

But in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, which has seen the government break its balanced budget to pay for 1.3 trillion euros, or $1.6 trillion, in compensation for the lockdowns and vaccines, the party could gain support with a smart campaign focused on social justice and Mr. Scholz’ willingness to spend to keep people afloat.

With the conservatives polling just below 30 percent, the Greens hovering just above 20 percent, followed by the Social Democrats at around 18 percent, what seems clear is that whichever party wins the election will have to build a coalition to govern.

One idea has been that the Greens would become the junior partner in a conservative-led government that would be more environmentally focused than the coalitions of the conservatives and Social Democrats led by Ms. Merkel, but still heavily influenced by the Christian Democrats.

But even if the conservative bloc emerges as the strongest force, the Greens, as the second-strongest party, could try to build a progressive government together with the Social Democrats and one of the smaller parties, either the liberal Free Democrats or the Left party, forcing the conservatives into opposition.

All three leading parties have ruled out a coalition with the far-right Alternative for Germany, which wound up the biggest party in opposition after the Social Democrats joined the Christian Democrats in government in 2017.

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Post-Merkel Germany May Be Shaded Green

Whatever government fills the vacuum in Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel will be tinged with green.

After nearly 16 years in office, Ms. Merkel’s conservative party, the Christian Democrats, is slipping and stagnant, critics say — short of ideas on how to keep Germany vibrant and rich in a world where its industrial and export model is outdated; where faith in the United States has been damaged; and where China is more self-sufficient and Russia more aggressive.

The other traditional mainstay, the left-center Social Democrats, currently junior partners with Ms. Merkel, is in even worse shape, both electorally and ideologically.

The German Greens are filling the vacuum. Five months before elections in September, the party is running a close second in the opinion polls to the struggling Christian Democrats, and some think it might even lead the next government.

“They will be part of the next government,’’ said Norbert Röttgen, a prominent Christian Democrat, in a forecast widely shared in Germany. “Either a big part or even the leading part.’’

But these are not the Greens of the Cold War, a radical party appalled by the nuclear standoff between the Soviet Union and the United States over a divided Europe. The Greens are now centrist, eager for power, with a surprisingly gimlet-eyed view of international affairs and of how Germany needs to change without alienating big business.

If the Greens surge in Europe’s largest and richest country, it would be a watershed not only for the party but for all of Europe, where it already is part of the governing coalitions in six countries.

It would also potentially herald a shift toward a more assertive foreign policy in Germany, especially toward China and Russia, as global politics is becoming a competition between authoritarian and democratic ideals.

“This is a different party, a different generation, a different setting and a different world,” said Sergey Lagodinsky, a Green member of the European Parliament. “With Covid, climate and common global challenges clearer to many, it’s easier to push for a transformative green agenda in the classic sense.”

“But the confrontation with authoritarianism is now clear,” he added, “and that puts us in a different place.”

Jana Puglierin, the director of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, said: “The Greens are the only party that can rock the boat a bit, especially on China and Russia. They will strike a better balance between the economy and human rights.’’

Led by two pragmatists, or “realos,” the German Greens honor their “fundis,” the more idealistic among them, without allowing them to marginalize the party, as in the past.

The party’s co-chairs are Robert Habeck, 51, and Annalena Baerbock, 40, who is considered the most likely chancellor candidate. The choice is expected on Monday; she would be the only woman in the race to replace Ms. Merkel.

With the environment central to their program, the Greens represent the current zeitgeist. Its leaders argue that correct economic policies can produce a Germany that is digital, modern and carbon neutral, no longer so dependent on old-fashioned industrial production, however sophisticated.

They oppose Nord Stream 2, the Russian natural-gas pipeline to Germany that circumvents Ukraine and Poland. They also oppose the European Union’s investment deal with China. They are committed to European cooperation, democracy promotion, the defense of human rights, Germany’s membership in NATO and its strong alliance with the United States.

While the Greens consider NATO’s goal of military spending of 2 percent of gross domestic product to be arbitrary, the party favors more spending to ensure that the woefully weak German military is able to meet its NATO responsibilities.

Even Mr. Röttgen, the Christian Democrat who is chairman of the Bundestag foreign policy committee, said that “however embarrassing for me, the Greens have the clearest stance of all the parties on China and Russia.”

They would make “a much more realistic and preferable partner for us on foreign policy,” he said.

Wolfgang Streeck, a leftist German economist, once famously called the Greens “the vegetarian section of the Christian Democrats,” noted Hans Kundnani of Chatham House, a research organization based in London. In the way the party criticizes Russia and China on the grounds of democracy and human rights, Mr. Kundnani said, it is similar to American neoconservatives.

“The German Greens are now a pragmatist centrist party,” said Ulrich Speck of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “They want to be part of the government and play a big role, with a focus on greening the economy. They think there are enough in business who understand that this is the future.”

Foreign policy is secondary, Mr. Speck said. “But the democracy agenda matters, and they position themselves in solidarity with opposition democrats in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and China. And they are very tough on China.”

In Germany, the Greens are already part of governing coalitions with a variety of other parties in 11 of the 16 German states, and were just re-elected to head the government in Baden-Württemberg, where the car industry is important.

In fact, argued Arne Jungjohann, a political analyst with Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Greens are flexible enough to go into coalition with any party, except the far-right Alternative for Germany.

In Britain and Western European countries like France, the Greens are more modest and leftist, committed to the environment. But even there, they are benefiting from the weakness of more established parties.

In six countries, Mr. Jungjohann said, they are already in government. They are part of the governing coalitions in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg and Sweden.

In Europe’s south and in post-Communist Europe, as in the east of Germany itself, the Greens are not such a big factor, though they are more popular with the urban young.

One of Germany’s main problems is that its successful economic model has become a trap, argued John Kornblum, a former American ambassador to Germany who still lives there.

“They haven’t done very well with digital, but found a market in China for their 19th-century products,” he said. “The Chinese at this point still need them and buy them, but at some point soon China will make all that themselves.”

The other establishment parties “believe that Germany’s existence depends on this 19th-century machine-tool economy,” he said.

Alone among the main parties, the Greens have a vision for a Germany that is digital, climate neutral, deeply committed to the European Union, to democratic values and gender equality. A party that, as Ms. Puglierin said, believes that the future is no longer the diesel Mercedes but the electric Tesla.

Still, the party has had to dance carefully over issues of the military, security and nuclear policy, where idealism confronts the world as it is, and where soft power is not always matched with hard power.

“A test will come, because the reality of foreign policy is not just value-driven, but you need to define your interests,’’ Mr. Lagodinsky said.

True to its roots, the party calls for a Germany without U.S. nuclear weapons. But it has also been careful to hedge its election manifesto.

“They want a world without nuclear weapons, but acknowledge that it will take time to get there — they’ll first have to find other ways to reassure eastern and central European partners,” said Sophia Besch, an analyst with the Center for European Reform in Berlin.

They want close cooperation with France on Europe but are less enamored of French ideas for a European army; are ambivalent about a new European air combat system that could carry nuclear bombs and armed drones; and would be strict about exports of arms to customers like Saudi Arabia.

They would also be strict about how and when German forces could engage overseas, even in coalitions of the willing, in the absence of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

But what may be most important for Germany, Ms. Puglierin noted, is that the Greens would at least produce new, needed debates on long-suppressed topics, like the ambivalent German policies toward China and Russia, let alone German dependency on the combustion engine.

“The Greens are the only chance to see real change in German foreign policy,” she said. “We’ve been so status-quo oriented in the Merkel years.”

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A Bitter Family Feud Dominates the Race to Replace Merkel

BERLIN — With less than six months to go before Germans cast their ballots for a new chancellor, the political vacuum Angela Merkel leaves behind after 16 years of consensus-oriented leadership is coming more sharply into focus.

A rare and rancorous power struggle has gripped Germany’s conservatives this week as two rivals vie to replace her, threatening to further hobble her Christian Democratic Union, which is already sliding in the polls.

Normally, Armin Laschet, 60, who was elected in January to lead the party, would almost assuredly be the heir apparent to Ms. Merkel. Instead, he finds himself unexpectedly pitted against his biggest rival, Markus Söder, the more popular head of a smaller, Bavaria-only party, the Christian Social Union, in a kind of conservative family feud.

Experts and party members alike are calling for the dispute to be resolved within the coming days, as it risks damaging the reputation of the two conservative parties, jointly referred to as the Union. Because the two parties operate as one on the national stage, they must choose one candidate for chancellor.

“Armin Laschet and Markus Söder must finally understand their responsibility toward the Union,” Tilman Kuban, head of the Young Union, told the Bild daily on Thursday. “If they continue to tear one another apart as they have in the past few days, together they will ensure that there won’t be much left of the Christian Democrats or the Christian Socialists in the future.”

Leading Ms. Merkel’s party would have once been seen as an advantage for Mr. Laschet, but it has recently become a drag. With a botched vaccine rollout and a confusing response to the pandemic, support for the conservatives has plunged by 10 percentage points since the start of the year.

After a series of personal gaffes, Mr. Laschet’s popularity has been dropping. In his home state of North Rhine-Westphalia more than half of the population have said they are not happy with his performance, and a poll this week showed only 4 percent of Germans nationwide see him as “a strong leader.”

At the same time, Mr. Söder, 54, who is also governor of Bavaria, has artfully used several appearances alongside Ms. Merkel after pandemic-related meetings to burnish his image as a man in charge, capable of tackling tough issues and getting things done.

A full 57 percent of Germans said Mr. Söder displayed the qualities of “a strong leader.”

Keenly aware of his popularity, Mr. Söder began openly pushing for the candidacy earlier this week, citing his strong, stable showing in the polls over Mr. Laschet, despite warnings from senior conservatives that public opinion could be fickle.

“At the end of the day, the conservative parties have to make an offer that will be acceptable to voters and the people, and not just a few party functionaries,” Mr. Söder told Bavarian public television. “Of course polls are not everything, but if after several months a clear trend emerges, it cannot just be ignored.”

After leading conservative lawmakers discussed the issue on Sunday, Mr. Söder said he was willing to run, if the Christian Democrats would support him. If not, he added, he would cooperate, “without any grudges.”

But on Monday, after the boards of each party had backed their own leader, Mr. Söder suddenly changed his position. He continued to push for his right to run for chancellor during a closed-door meeting of conservative lawmakers on Tuesday. After four hours of discussions, nearly two-thirds of those present expressed their support for the Bavarian leader — including members of Mr. Laschet’s party.

In a country that views the art of compromise as a valuable skill for a leader, the public game of political chicken could come at a high price. At a time when the environmentalist Greens have rapidly risen in popularity and are now nipping at the conservatives’ heels, they can ill afford such a public display of disharmony.

“At the end of the day, both have to decide between themselves. There is no set procedure that clearly defines how this will end,” said Prof. Thorsten Fass, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University. Regardless of who runs as the candidate, the damage of the fight will still have to be repaired, Professor Fass said. “It is not a good way to start an election year.”

Both contenders have said they would like the matter to be decided by the end of the week, and pressure from inside both parties is growing for a quick resolution.

Four other political parties are vying to win the most votes on Sept. 26 and seize power by forming a government and naming a chancellor.

The center-left Social Democrats, who have been the junior party in Ms. Merkel’s government coalition since 2017, have already named the finance minister and vice-chancellor, Olaf Scholz, as their choice for chancellor. The Greens, currently polling as the second-strongest party ahead of the Social Democrats and close behind the conservatives, are scheduled to announce their candidate on Monday.

Not everyone is ready to count out Mr. Laschet yet. He is a politician whose recent successes, winning the governorship of North Rhine-Westphalia over a well-liked incumbent and the monthslong race for the Christian Democrat leadership in January, both saw him grasping victory after coming from behind.

Mr. Laschet also has the backing of some of the most senior and influential members of his party, including the former finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who has been around since the first time the conservatives split over a chancellor candidate in 1979.

“If Laschet has the nerve and still has his party’s leadership behind him, then Söder could say that he accepts this, then use his position to negotiate a strong minister post for his party in a potential future government,” said Ursula Münch, director of the Academy for Political Education in Tutzing.

On the other hand, if enough pressure from within the party builds on Mr. Laschet, he could concede to Mr. Söder for the sake of the party and the need to move ahead. That would hand the Bavarian leader a victory that would serve to enforce his reputation as a sharp-witted maverick who will change his policies to fit the public mood. As public favor in Bavaria shifted from the far-right Alternative for Germany party to the environmentalist Greens, he abandoned an anti-immigrant stance and embraced a push to save honey bees, to the ire of farmers who have long formed the grass roots of his party.

“He is intelligent, quick and rhetorically strong,” Ms. Münch said of Mr. Söder. “He is able to push people into a corner while keeping a back door open for himself, and in that sense, Laschet can’t hold a candle to him.”

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Merkel Reverses Easter Shutdown Plan in Germany

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday scrapped an unpopular plan to shut the German economy for two extra days over Easter, apologizing for what she called “a mistake” amid widespread anger over her government’s increasingly chaotic approach to combating the coronavirus.

The chancellor’s reversal came less than 36 hours after she proposed two additional “off days” around Easter, effectively extending the existing holiday to five consecutive days in hopes of halting a spike in coronavirus infections. The suggestion — made after nearly 12 hours of deliberations between Ms. Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states — was met with an almost immediate backlash because it would have required businesses to close.

Faced with criticism from both her own conservative bloc and from opposition politicians, along with a flood of complaints from a public worn out by 12 months of lockdowns and reopenings, the chancellor called a quick news conference and announced her decision to reverse course.

wrote on Twitter, urging the chancellor to reverse course.

“There is growing concern across the economy about long-lasting, irreparable damage,” said Siegfried Russwurm, president of the powerful B.D.I. association of German industries. He stressed the need for a “coherent pandemic concept” and urged leaders to factor more than the number of infections into their risk calculations.

cleared it for use.

The suspension set Germany back several days in its vaccine campaign and further weakened trust in AstraZeneca. The company’s vaccine was already suffering from an image problem in Germany after experts initially limited its use to adults 64 and younger, citing a lack of information on the effects in older people. That decision was reversed several weeks later.

Despite the frustrations, many Germans realize the only way to stop the virus from spreading is to reduce contact between people and retreat again to their homes. As onerous as that idea may be after a year of restrictions, nearly a third of Germans surveyed last week said the government’s measures had not gone far enough.

The number of new infections in the country has climbed steadily since early March. Many intensive care stations have no more than two beds free.

“I think they’re not focusing enough on the long term goals and too much on details and formalities,” said Anni Koch, 24. “We might need to go through another full lockdown, which would be annoying, but maybe necessary.”

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.

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Election Year in Germany Kicks Off With Voting in Two States

BERLIN — Voters in two southwestern German states are kicking off an election year on Sunday that could change the course of Europe’s largest economy after 16 years under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will be stepping down after a new government is sworn in.

The elections in the states of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate are the first in a year that will see voting for new legislators in four more states, and for the country’s Parliament, which will be elected in September.

Sunday’s voting is taking place after largely muted election campaigns that were overshadowed by the threat of the coronavirus and by lockdowns. While neither race will serve as a clear bellwether for the fall election, the outcomes could indicate how voters are feeling about the two leading parties, the conservatives and the Greens, and help focus the contest for Ms. Merkel’s replacement.

“It is an unbelievably exciting election year,” said Thorsten Faas, a professor of political science at Berlin’s Free University. “A lot is still open, creating the possibility for movement in various directions.”

Armin Laschet, who took who took over as leader of the Christian Democratic Union in January.

Normally the party would put forward its leader as the candidate in the race for the chancellor, but Mr. Laschet has so far proved to be less popular with the German public than the governor of Bavaria, Markus Söder, who could instead be tapped as the conservative candidate.

Mr. Söder, who is also the head of the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union, has raised his profile as someone who takes tough, decisive action to halt the spread of the pandemic in his state, closing the border to Austria and sending vaccines to help the beleaguered Czech Republic.

Mr. Laschet has said the conservatives will decide in the coming months whether the head of the Christian Democratic Union or the head of the Christian Social Union will run in September as the conservative bloc’s candidate for chancellor. But if the Christian Democrats take a beating in Sunday’s elections, they might decide faster.

Whoever is selected will face the Greens’ candidate, who has yet to be named, and Germany’s finance minister, Olaf Scholz, who is running for the Social Democrats.

Support for the Greens has nearly doubled since the election in 2017, making them the second strongest party heading into the national election, after the conservatives and ahead of the Social Democrats.

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