Israel welcomes 200 young Germans
This article first appeared on The Media Line.
On the 68th anniversary of the day that the United Nations first recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state in Palestine, two hundred young German leaders are landing in Israel for a five-day tour of the country. The German visitors have never been to Israel, and are leaders in business, music, art and diplomacy.
UN Resolution 181 called for the partition of Palestine into two states – one Jewish and one Arab. In his remarks to the cabinet, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called it “a decision that advanced the establishment of the State of Israel. The next day, Jewish communities were under increasingly murderous attacks. As it was then, so it is today; we continue to fight terrorism. This terrorism has been with us for almost 100 years and we have defeated it time and again; we will defeat it this time as well.”
Israeli foreign minister spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said the timing of the visit was purely coincidental, but the fact that both Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin will meet the group shows the importance that Israel attaches to its relationship with Germany.
“The relations between Israel and Germany are a cornerstone of Israel’s diplomacy,” Nachshon told The Media Line. “Bringing young Germans here is an important step to preserve those unique relations for the future. They are the young elite of Germany who will influence their future of their country, and we want them to understand Israel.”
The relationship between Germany and Israel has been especially close in the shadow of the Holocaust, when six million Jews were killed. German children all study the Holocaust, and Germany has given Israel billions of dollars in reparations. The two countries have held numerous celebrations this year marking 50 years of diplomatic relations.
Thousands of German students volunteer in Israel, and Berlin has become something of a mecca for Israelis. Israel has intensive security, business and cultural ties with Germany and German President Angela Merkel has a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Earlier this month, four days after the attacks in Paris, Israel forwarded intelligence that a terrorist attack was planned at a friendly soccer match between Israel and the Netherlands in Hanover, during a game that Merkel was supposed to attend, according to the German magazine Stern. The game was called off just before it began.
Also this month, large German department store KaDeWe removed Israeli products produced in areas that Israeli acquired in 1967, after the European Union passed a resolution to remove these products. After an uproar in Israel, officials at the store apologized and returned the products.
Yet some Israeli analysts say that cracks are appearing in the Israeli-German relationship.
“Israeli sympathy for Germany is on the rise while German sympathy for Israel is declining,” Moshe Zimmerman, the Director of the Richard Koebner Minerva Center for German History at Hebrew University told The Media Line. “Germany has become the nice guy and Israeli has become the bad guy.”
He said that Germany has intentionally kept its army small and avoided getting involved in war, and has rejected racism. Israel, on the other hand, is seen as being militaristic, and using its army for political purposes.
So far, Zimmerman said, these ideas have not affected Germany’s close political ties with Israel. But they are being heard more and more on the street in Germany, and he said they could eventually affect these ties.
“Politicians are politicians everywhere,” Zimmerman said. “You can’t have the political strata working in a void if the public is against Israel.”