Israel and Germany, a 40-year friendship
By Silvan Shalom and Joschka Fischer
The writers are the foreign ministers of Israel and Germany.
Published in Haaretz, 17 May 2005
This week, Israel and Germany are marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Israel-German relations have a unique character: influenced both by the Holocaust but also by the experience that was gained shaping a common present and future despite that terrible crisis and disaster.
"Those who don’t believe in miracles are not realistic." That saying by David Ben-Gurion is appropriate to the developments in the Israel-Germany relationship. Few countries in the world have managed to come such a long way in their relations in so few decades.
Today, only 60 years after World War II and in the shadow of the terrible past of the Holocaust – the mass murder of German and European Jewry organized and executed by Germans – relations between Israel and Germany are stable and solid.
Germany and Israel share both their development and their values. The political affinity was preceded by social ties that were woven over time, and Israel-German relations are characterized by large-scale youth and student exchanges, twin city relationships, and cultural, scientific and sports connections.
Germany recognizes its responsibility for preserving the memory of the past for the future generations. It also recognizes its responsibility to defend the existence and security of the State of Israel as the homeland of the Holocaust survivors and Jews throughout the world. There is no forgiving and forgetting when it comes to the Holocaust. The memory of the past will always be a cornerstone of the relationship between the two countries.
The establishment of diplomatic ties 40 years ago signified readiness to turn over a new leaf, a new chapter to be written by both countries, which regard themselves as part of a community that shares the values of human rights, the rule of law and free democracy. These shared values are a strong connecting link between Israel and Germany and between Israel and Europe. Israel regards Germany as an important partner and friend in the international arena, particularly in the European Union.
In an era of declining numbers of survivors who can provide personal testimony about the dark period of the Holocaust, when Germany and Europe still must deal with the phenomenon of anti-Semitism, there is a need to strengthen even further the special ties between Israel and Germany, and to shape them for the coming decades.
Therefore, we, the foreign ministers of Israel and Germany, with the participation of citizen groups in both countries, regard the 40th year of diplomatic ties between the two countries as an opportunity to refresh the relationship and fill it with new content for the sake of the future.
Exchanges of visits by senior officials, including the two presidents and two foreign ministers, emphasize the importance of the celebrations. As a special cultural event as part of the celebrations, Berlin will soon see the opening of an exhibition titled "The new Hebrews – 100 years of Israeli art."
The German presence at the Jerusalem Book Fair and the Israel Festival; the participation of Israel in the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Leipzig Book Fair, where the main theme this year at a "Jewish Worlds" event will be "Forty years of Israel-German ties"; the many and varied performances and events in the realms of culture, science and sports, and many other areas of Israeli-German cooperation – these are all turning the 40th anniversary year of diplomatic ties between Israel and Germany into a very important public occasion.
We place importance on broadening the ties through practical action, research and development, and cultural exchanges. On the governmental plane, the two countries are working to tighten the cooperation dealing with the main challenges of the 21st century and the common search for solutions to important issues that affect the entire international community.
An important element in this activity is the participation of the younger generation, which naturally has less knowledge of the past, but more of an ability to influence the future. The question, whether the foundations of the bilateral relationship between the two countries will continue to be stable and fruitful, depends on the ability and readiness of the younger generation to continue developing those ties.
The governments of Israel and Germany are committed to strengthening and tightening this friendship through all possible means. We owe it to ourselves, the citizens of both countries, and to the future generations. The 40th anniversary year of diplomatic ties between the two countries is for all of us an opportunity to enlist in the joint effort to build an Israeli-German partnership as a bridge between the past and the future, tidings to the citizens of both countries, and an example to all.
* * * * *
Israel Cabinet statement
At its meeting on May 15, 2005, the Cabinet issued the following statement:
“This week, forty years ago, Israel and Germany established diplomatic relations. Establishing bilateral relations was a momentous occasion in the history of the state. These relations were established in the shadow of the Holocaust, the terrible crime against the Jewish people which was perpetrated by the Third Reich. Remembering the Holocaust is an essential part if bilateral relations and it will remain so. There is no forgive-and-forget regarding the Holocaust.
Relations between Germany and Israel today are a unique combination of the past and the future. For the sake of those who were murdered and for the coming generations – there is a continuous obligation to remember the past and to educate for the future, specifically the youth, who will mold the face of society in the next generations.
Today, the German people and their government, who share democratic and free ideals with us, are one of Israel’s main partners in all endeavors. On a national level, Germany is committed to Israel’s existence and acts in bilateral frameworks and international forums to aid in bolstering Israel’s security and international standing.
Today, the Government of Israel commemorates friendly relations, cooperation and understanding between the two states and the two peoples, and will continue to strengthen and develop them.”