The Limits of German Guilt
Since Germany and Israel established diplomatic ties 50 years ago this month, the relationship has become a solid one. But historic guilt is no longer adequate to compel Germany to support Israel’s wrongheaded policies – especially when those policies are victimizing another group, the Palestinians.
MUNICH – This month marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. The bilateral relationship, born in the wake of the Nazis’ annihilation of European Jewry, has developed into a solid one. But fading memories of the Holocaust among younger Germans, together with Israel’s declining international standing, have lately challenged the official discourse about “special” ties between the two countries.
David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father and the architect of Israel’s reconciliation with Germany, was a pragmatist through and through. He knew that forging a partnership with Germany, which included reparations that would help boost Israel’s capabilities, could go a long way toward securing Israel’s survival.
Of course, the reparations – which began in 1952 – served Germany’s interests, too. The best way to regain international legitimacy after World War II was to atone publicly for the atrocities committed by the Nazis, and reconcile with the world’s Jewish population.