chapter  8
16 Pages

Normalisation – the Conflict between the Moral Debt and Political Realism

The establishment of diplomatic relations between the Federal Republic and Israel - the official date was 12 May 1965, the day the letters were exchanged between Chancellor Erhard and Prime Minister Eshkol - and the near-certainty that the outstanding issues between the two countries would be solved, did not at first create complete harmony. There was initial disagreement when it came to the choice of the two ambassadors. The negotiations about West German economic aid to Israel to replace the expiring Luxembourg Restitution Treaty, foreshadowed in Erhard’s letter to Eshkol, led to serious differences of principle between the two governments. As so often, Israeli suspicions arising from the past com­ plicated matters. These were not assuaged by a new, albeit temporary political development in the Federal Republic; the sudden, quixotic rise to prominence of neo-Nazism, momentarily reawakening all over the world memories of the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s. These difficulties were, however, ultimately overcome and relations improved. The establishment of diplomatic missions never guarantees that relations are ‘good’, even less that they are ‘special’. They had been ‘special’ in thv case of the Federal Republic and Israel ever since their commencement in the early 1950s. The question now was whether ‘normalisation’, apart from the exchange of diplomatic missions, also meant that the relations would maintain their special character or become indistinguishable from those between other countries.