Fifty years after the opening of diplomatic relations, 36 percent of the Germans have a positive attitude towards Israel. However, 48 percent of their compatriots say that their opinion of Israel is poor. This figure rises to 54 percent among the age group between 18 and 29 years. Attitudes towards the Israeli government are especially critical, with 62 percent of Germans expressing a negative opinion. Thus the Germans' attitudes to Israel are more negative than the opinions of Israeli Jews about Germany. These are some of the findings of the Bertelsmann Stiftung's study "Germany and Israel Today: Linked by the Past, Divided by the Present?"
According to the study, the perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has an increasingly dominant impact on the way Germans view Israel as a whole. While a majority of both Israelis (74 percent) and Germans (61 percent) believes that Germany has a special responsibility as a result of its history, opinions diverge about how this responsibility should be reflected in German policy. 84 percent of Israelis hope that the German government will provide political support for Israel in the Middle East conflict, but one in two Germans opposes such support. Similarly, 82 percent of Israelis want Germany to supply weapons to Israel, but 68 percent of Germans reject this idea.
Contradictory conclusions from history
Stephan Vopel, the Bertelsmann Stiftung's expert on Israel, believes that the main reasons for these discrepancies must be sought in the different security situations and political cultures of the two countries. In Vopel's view, Israelis and Germans have drawn contradictory conclusions from history: "In Germany, the watchword is 'No more war,' while in Israel it is 'No more victimization.'"
However, the Germans are less likely than in the past to say that the Israeli government bears the sole responsibility for solving the Middle East conflict. In the early 1990s, one in four Germans said that only Israel should make concessions in the Palestinian conflict, but today, only one in six still holds this view. At the same time, 73 percent believe that Israelis and Palestinians should be equally willing to compromise in order to achieve peace, and a majority (53 percent) among Israeli respondents shares this view.