After 50 years of diplomatic relations, the Israeli-German partnership is strained by mounting German dismay over Israel’s settlement policy and reinvigorated anti-Semitism in Germany.
By Angela Gruber
Israel and Germany are marking 50 years of diplomatic relations this week. While most people probably aren’t reeling with excitement in anticipation of the countless festivities (especially on the German side) to mark the occasion, the anniversary does serve as a good occasion to take stock of the relationship between these two countries.
Can Israeli-German relations ever be normal? Should they, after the Holocaust? Is Israel more entitled to German support than other nations? Or is this a poisoned chalice no side should lobby for? And where do the Palestinians stand in that equation?
German Chancellor Willy Brandt once described the relations between Israel and Germany as, “normal relations [that] are very special in nature.” A few decades later, I believe his words still ring true. And yet they mean something different today.
Fifty years after David Ben-Gurion and Konrad Adenauer forged an unlikely partnership, Israel and Germany are partners with strong ties in economy, science, culture, sports, and of course, politics. Not only are diplomatic ties strong between the two countries, there is also deep and broad cooperation between the two civil societies.
Probably most controversially, Germany is a major supplier and funder of Israeli arms, subsidizing up to 50 percent of the costs (for example with the Dolphin-class submarines) of armaments, including the subsidized sale of new warships announced this week. Israel’s security was and still is an essential part of the German Staatsraison, and no German politician has ever grown tired of saying as much.
But in recent years, Germany and Israel’s interpretations of what this cornerstone of foreign policy means and how it should be interpreted in day-to-day politics have drifted apart. Germany is taking baby steps toward being more outspoken about the Israeli occupation, and that is increasingly straining its relationship with Israel (see timeline).
Nevertheless, Khalil Shikaki from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah thinks Germany could support the Palestinians much more, even without hurting its relations with Israel.
“Palestinians want much stronger economic relations with Germany, which is also something Israel should support,” he told me.
Shikaki recently directed a public opinion survey asking Palestinians about their views on Germany. Most...Read More