A turning point in Israeli-German relations

German public opinion of Israel is slumping ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit there. There is growing public and political disillusionment over Israel’s treatment of its Palestinian neighbors.

Merkel and her 15 cabinet ministers will participate in the largest-ever bilateral consultations on Monday and will kick off official preparations for next year’s celebrations commemorating 50 years since diplomatic relations between the two countries were established.

However, the visit has been overshadowed by reports of the worst crisis in diplomatic ties since Merkel took office almost 10 years ago. A recent BBC poll showed that only 14 percent of Germans today had a positive view of Israel.

“I think German public opinion is actually worse than what’s shown in the polls because Germans don’t publicly state their opinion, they play it down,” said Israel’s former ambassador to Germany and the European Union, Avi Primor.

“The Germans are still very aware of their Nazi past, particularly Merkel who is originally from East Germany, so she has a bad conscience from the past but this is changing and you can’t ignore the growing public opinion,” he told DW.

“Originally I was totally anti-Germany and didn’t believe Israel should have any ties with it. But by ’68 we were really impressed by the generation of Germans who demanded their parents and teachers tell the truth about their Nazi past and the reparations agreement changed relations even further. We ultimately grasped that Germany was striving for a European Germany and not a German Europe. Now we almost see Germans demanding the same standards of Israelis,” Primor said.

A stalled peace process

A senior Israeli official confirmed to DW that recent phone calls between Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during and since the P5+1 meetings on Iran had escalated to shouting and disagreements. The most divisive issue between the two countries is over Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Very recently the state of the relations between Israel and Germany, in particular Israeli sensitivities, were illustrated when extreme right-wing members of the Knesset stormed out during Martin Schulz’ speech, the German President of the European Parliament. Schulz posed a question in the Knesset over unequal water distribution, mentioned to him by a Palestinian youth during a visit to Ramallah.

“One of the questions from these young men that moved me the most was: ‘how can it be that Israelis are allowed to use 70 liters of water per day and Palestinians only 17,'” Shulz relayed.

He later admitted he hadn’t checked his figures and they were found to be exaggerated, but it is not disputed that Israel receives more water per capita than Palestine.

Full article: A turning point in Israeli-German relations (Deutsche Welle)

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