1965: Year of Crisis and Crisis Resolution
By late 1964 relations between the Federal Republic and Israel had reached their lowest ebb since they began in the early 1950s. The irritation, it must be said, was nearly all on Israel’s side. For nine years the West German government had refused to establish diplomatic relations when it had an opportunity to do so. While not making much difference to the conduct of day-to-day economic and political business between the two states, it was resented as a slight and condemned by the Israeli public and media as discrimination, even if the government, for good reasons, had to keep its cool. Then there was the unresolved dispute over the West German scientists and technicians working for the Egyptian government on armaments, whom the Federal Government had not been able to call home. Finally, there was ill-feeling over the prosecution of war criminals, leading early in 1965 to the half-measure decreed by the Bundestag of extending by four and a half years the Statute of Limitations for all murderers. On the credit side, however, the West Germans were con tinuing to keep strictly to the restitution payments under the Luxembourg Agreement which was due to expire in 1966, and more aid was going to Israel as a result of the meeting between Adenauer and Ben-Gurion in 1960. But most important, the secret flow of weapons was continuing from the Federal Republic to Israel and was, in fact, being increased. These latter factors, restitution, economic aid and above all military supplies were undoubtedly the reasons why the Israeli government did not join the growing tide of protests that came from the media, but confined itself to occasional criticism, subdued even in the emotive case of the West German scientists. Then in October 1964 the secret of the West German arms supplies was revealed to the world, though not necessarily to the top politicians, who may well have known for some time. But the ‘revelation’ provided the Egyptian President with a reason to challenge the Hallstein Doctrine. The crisis ended with a humiliation for the Federal Government. It stopped the arms flow but also led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Federal Republic and Israel, and to
more economic aid for the latter. The other two problems, the scientists in Egypt and the differences over the Statute of Limitations faded away. Relations now became officially normal - the question was whether they actually improved.