Germans increasingly less committed to Israel, study shows

Survey shows while most Israelis believe Germany still bears responsibility toward the Jews after the Holocaust, half of Germans believe it is high time to move on

Yogev Israeli|
Germans feel increasingly less committed to Israel and hold less favorable views of it, a new survey published on Monday shows.
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  • The study, entitled Germany and Israel today: Between connection and alienation, found Israelis have a more positive opinion of Germany than Germans have of Israel.
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    Israeli and German flags
    Israeli and German flags
    Israeli and German flags
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    Of the 1,271 Germans polled, 46% have a positive opinion of Israel and 34% have a negative one while among the 1,372 Israelis asked in the study, 63% replied that they have a positive opinion of Germany and only 19% think negatively about that country.
    The study commissioned by the non-profit Bertelsmann Foundation was conducted in Germany by New Strategic Research gmbh, and in Israel by Wave Research and surveyed Israelis and Germans over the age of 18.
    According to the findings, Israelis are divided on whether the relationship between Israelis and Germans is still affected by the Holocaust, with 48% replying it is and 42% saying there is only a slight influence or none at all.
    Still, 60% of Israelis reject the notion that the past must be left behind and only 14% say it is time to move on.
    In Germany, 49% of those asked believe the past is in the past and only 33% oppose such a notion.
    In both countries, those surveyed were asked if they thought Germany has a special responsibility toward the Jewish people. In Israel, 58% of respondents said it should have, while in Germany only 35% agreed.
    The study found that only 27% of Germans feel Germany should have a responsibility for the State of Israel while 57% of Israelis answered that it should.
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    The Auschwitz concentration camp
    The Auschwitz concentration camp
    The Auschwitz concentration camp
    (Photo: EPA)
    The results indicated that Israelis have expectations from the German state while most Germans rejected that notion.
    When asked how German policymakers should act, 61% of Israelis said they would like the German government to show support for Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians. Only 12% of Germans agree with that position.
    Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Germans think both Israelis and Palestinians must compromise to reach common ground and resolve the conflict while more than half (55%) of Israelis say the Palestinians are those who should make concessions.
    "The differences in perception between Germans and Israelis are also the result of different security situations and a different political culture," says Director of the Bertelsmann Foundation Stephan Vopel, adding that most Germans hold the view that there should never be another war, while in Israel, the most prevalent view is that Jews must never again be victims.
    The study posed specific questions to examine antisemitism in Germany but was unable to encompass the complex issue in its entirety as it provided information about isolated indicators and not on the phenomenon as a whole. That caused the results to appear higher than in similar studies.
    According to the survey, 24% of Germans believe Jews have too much influence in the world. Another reason for concern is antisemitism that targets Israel, with 36% of Germans equating the Jewish state's policies toward the Palestinians to those the Jews have endured at the hands of the Nazis.
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    Pro Palestinian demonstrators in Berlin, last year
    Pro Palestinian demonstrators in Berlin, last year
    Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Berlin, last year
    (Photo: AFP)
    A deeper look into the data showed that less educated respondents tended to hold more prejudiced views. "Considering the obvious connection between education and antisemitism, we call for an urgent investment in educational programs to address those matters," said Dr. Joachim Rother who holds the Israel Portfolio at the Bertelsmann Foundation.
    Of those asked, 55% of Israelis had a positive view of the German government and only 12% expressed a negative view. In the 18 to 29 age group, 47% held a positive opinion.
    But among Germans asked, the view of the Israeli government was mostly negative.
    Only 24% expressed a positive opinion compared to 43% who have a negative view and a third (34%) had no opinion on the matter at all.
    Among younger Germans in the 18 to 29 age group, only 15% had a positive opinion of the Israeli government.
    But interestingly, the survey found that among the younger population questioned in both countries, close to half believe Germany still bears responsibility toward Jews after the Holocaust.
    However, the similarity ends over the question of whether Germany must support the State of Israel, with 54% of Israelis believing it should and only 25% of Germans holding the same view.
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    German Chancellor Olaf scholz and Prime Minister Yair Lapid
    German Chancellor Olaf scholz and Prime Minister Yair Lapid
    German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Prime Minister Yair Lapid
    (Photo: GPO)
    Rother says some of the findings of the study are encouraging but says they should also be a cautionary sign.
    "The German-Israeli relations have improved in recent decades but the views of the younger populations in both countries indicate there must be an urgent and intense examination of positions. This is where direct interaction in the form of dialogue and cooperation can be advantageous," he says.
    Stephan Stetter of Bundeswehr University in Munich, Jenny Hestermann of the College for Jewish Studies at Heidelberg University and Dr. Roby Nathanson of the Tel Aviv Center for Political Economics co-authored the study which shows in broad strokes that all those questioned were satisfied with the existing relations but also revealed new information.
    In the survey, 56% of Germans and 68% of Israelis believe the two countries cooperate well.
    Yet, 78% of Israelis hope for further improvement compared to 53% of Germans.
    While 49% of Israelis say cooperation should focus on economic and security ties, 41% of Germans favor cooperation in science and research and 35% believe cooperation should focus on government and policy.
    Bilateral relations, which are viewed positively in both countries, offer a potential for growth in the future.
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