Israeli-German relations: Timeline of a difficult relationship

Read more here on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany.

By Angela Gruber

September 1951: Germany’s Chancellor Konrad Adenauer recognizes his country’s guilt over the Holocaust in his governmental statement [German]: “Unspeakable crimes have been committed in the name of the German people. They oblige us to moral and material reparations.”

September 1952: The “Luxembourg Agreement” about reparations for the Jewish victims of the Nazi regime is signed. It prompts controversy both in Israel and Germany.

December 1957: In a secret deal, Israel and Germany negotiate military cooperation, with Germany supplying armaments to Israel. It still does today.

May 1965: After increased cooperation and exchanges in the fields of sport, culture, science and economics, Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany establish diplomatic relations. Asher Ben-Natan is Israel’s first ambassador to Germany. Rolf Pauls is named the first German ambassador to Israel.

June 1973: Willy Brandt is the first German Chancellor to visit Israel, describing “normal relations [that] are very special in nature.”

September 1973: Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), receives a warm welcome in East Berlin by Erich Honecker, Chairman of the SED party in East Germany. The German Democratic Republic (DDR), in contrast to its Western sister state, followed an anti-Israel, Arab-friendly foreign policy driven by the Cold War.

July 1975: Yitzak Rabin becomes the first Israeli prime minister to visit Germany.

November 1989: The Berlin Wall falls and paves the way for Germany’s reunification. Israel follows the events with concern. In a letter to Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir calls a reunified Germany “a deathly danger for the Jews.”

March 2008: Israel and Germany initiate governmental consultations to foster relations between the two countries. The same month, Angela Merkel declares in the Knesset: “The security of Israel will never be negotiable for me, as the German Chancellor.”

February 2011: Israeli-German relations are strained, as Germany votes in favor of a UN Security Council resolution calling the Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory illegal. The resolution is vetoed and stopped by the U.S.

November 2012: Germany abstains from a vote granting Palestine the status of a non-member observer state with the UN, while Israeli officials wanted a German “no” vote.