Israel-German Ties Will Remain Strong Even After Merkel Leaves Office, Says Israeli Expert
Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to visit Israel on 28 August and is expected to reiterate Germany’s commitment to the defence of Israel. But it might not be that easy to stick to this pledge, especially given the fact that more and more Germans are displeased with the support their government provides to Israeli leadership.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to visit Israel at the end of the month, Israeli media reported earlier this week. It will be her third and probably her last trip to Israel before she leaves office by the end of this year.
Standing By Israel
David Witztum, a lecturer on German history and an expert in German-Israeli relations, says that just like during her previous visits, Merkel will surely reiterate her country's commitment to Israel.
"Merkel is a great friend of Israel. She went farther than any Chancellor before her and it was during her era that the two states have deepened their relations."
Since Merkel assumed the chancellery in 2005, Germany's relations with Israel have become a pillar of her foreign policy. For Merkel, preserving Israeli security was a “staatsraison” or in other words, core national interest.
Under her tenure, Germany has forged cooperation between the two states' governments. It deepened the collaboration between the militaries, outlawed organisations and movements that sought to destroy Israel, and remained the Mideast country’s biggest trade partner in Europe.
Merkel has also done much to combat antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment, that have been on the rise in Germany in recent years. She was the one, who stood firm and condemned anti-Semitic groups that staged rallies across the country.
Witztum believes that that bond between the two countries can largely be attributed to the traumas of the Holocaust during which six million Jews lost their lives.
Visiting Israel at the end of August, Merkel will probably vow to ensure that her fellow Germans continue to remember the Holocaust and will promise the Israeli leadership that Germany's special relations with the Jewish state will not alter, no matter who comes to power in Berlin.
But that promise of standing by Israel might not be that easy to fulfil. In 2015, a poll found that 48 percent of Germans asked held a poor opinion of Israel. A third equated Israeli policies towards the Palestinians with those of Nazis towards the Jews, and 58 percent said that the Holocaust should be consigned to history.
"The younger generation doesn't have that feeling of a responsibility like the previous generation. Plus, right now, some 20 percent of people living in Germany are not ethnic Germans. They are refugees. They don't share this burden of the Holocaust. They don't consider it their past because their past lies in Kosovo, Afghanistan or Syria."
With these kinds of sentiments and alarming polls, coupled with the rise of the alt-right, the future of Israel-Germany ties doesn't look bright. But Witztum says the memory of the Holocaust is still impacting the moves of Berlin's decision-making circles.
"There is still a great freight from the Holocaust. That past will not go away. People realise that antisemitism is a problem and that the past can repeat itself. And they do want to join forces to fight this phenomenon."