Germany

   The relationship between Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany (formally West Germany) has been described by observers as "special." The complex relationship grew out of developments related to the Holocaust, the crimes committed by the Germans against the Jews, and the subsequent efforts on the part of Germany to normalize its relationship with Israel and to integrate itself into the international system.
   Germany's approach to Israel had its origins in the views and policies of Germany's first postwar chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, who believed that there should be reconciliation between Germany and the Jewish people. Adenauer admitted the crimes committed by Germany against the Jewish people and argued that the rehabilitation of the Jews through moral and material reparations by Germany was essential. Israel was to receive material restitution from Germany, and after negotiations that began in the early 1950s, a restitution agreement was signed in September 1952 by Israel, Germany, and the Conference of Jewish Material Claims against Germany, despite strong Arab opposition. The agreement was of great importance to Israel, as it provided substantial economic support at a crucial time for the young state. Germany subsequently became a supplier of military equipment to the Jewish state. Nevertheless and despite the significance of this agreement for Israel, there was strong opposition in Israel to any arrangement with Germany, and diplomatic relations between the two states were not a realistic option. For Germany, the agreement was crucial in helping to restore its international position and to help prepare the way for its reintegration into the western European alliance structure.
   Despite various high-level meetings and continued economic assistance and military sales, a number of issues precluded substantial movement toward a diplomatic relationship between Israel and Germany for some time. These included the trial of Adolf Eichmann, which rekindled old memories, and the activities of German scientists in assisting in the development of Arab military capabilities. Diplomatic relations were not established until 1965. Although many Israelis remained concerned about dealing with the successor state to Nazi Germany, contacts between Israel and Germany flourished in all sectors and at all levels. Germany has become a major trading partner, and its aid to Israel has been indispensable to the economic growth of the state. Although Germany has become increasingly critical of some of Israel's policies concerning the Palestinians and the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Holocaust factor continues to play a special role in Germany's approach to Israel.
   In 2000, German president Johannes Rau made a state visit to Israel and addressed the Knesset in German; his successor, Horst Koehler, did the same in January 2005. Angela Merkel, who became chancellor in 2005, described the Israel-Germany relationship in these terms: "For us, relations with Israel are a precious treasure that we must preserve. We and the coming generations must therefore be aware of our history and the responsibility it entails. We must take a clear and public stand about maintaining close relations with the Jewish community in Germany and of course close relations with Israel, especially on the level of personal encounters."

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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