Israel and West Germany solidified their ties in 1965

On March 14th, 1965, 20 years after the end of WW2 and the Holocaust, Israel establishes diplomatic relations with West Germany. Israel’s significant population growth during its first five years of statehood caused a large strain on the economy which resulted in the rationing of basic necessities. As a result, reparations from West Germany, which began in 1952, helped ease these measures, which remained throughout the 1950s. 

Despite the reparations helping the Israeli economy, many Israelis were staunchly opposed to the idea of taking any aid from Germany, something they considered to be ‘money for Jewish blood’. In a famous speech opposed to the reparations, Menachem Begin, the leader of the opposition party in Israel in the 50s, called out the leftist government for accepting the reparations; leading Israel to push off official diplomatic ties. 

Nearly 15,000 Israelis, led by Begin, as part of a greater protest against the money being accepted from Nazi Germany’s succeeding government. The trade relations between Israel and West Germany that come out of the reparations agreement begin a process of diplomatic, social, and economic rapprochement between the two nations, something unacceptable to many Israelis at the time. 

By 1959, West Germany begins to deliver the young Zionist state much-needed military technology, and in 1961, thousands of young Germans begin coming to Israel as volunteers as part of a government program to help in the different social services needed. As tensions and mistrust slowly thaw, even inside Menachem Begin’s Herut party, formal diplomatic relations become imminent and it was only a matter of time before an official statement of the relations would be released.

The Israeli public warms up to the idea of official cooperation with West Germany. On May 12, 1965, the two states exchange the needed notes for establishing official diplomatic relations, marking the beginning of an extremely beneficial relationship for both countries. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol writes in Israel’s letter to West Germany, “The decision of our two Governments has been taken against a somber historical background and a stormy political one. I share our hope that our common decision will prove to be an important step towards a better future.”

Following the announcement, a number of Israel’s Arab neighbors, including Egypt, Iraq, and Syria break off diplomatic relations with West Germany, and are criticized for their antisemitic behavior; throughout the decades following, most of the Arab nations eventually establish their relationship with Germany.

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