chapter  11
13 Pages

The Troubled 1980s

Israeli anger aroused by the Federal Government’s arms ban and the European Community declaration soon calmed down. Realisation in Israel that the Federal Republic, despite appearances, had given important aid by allowing the American airlift from its territory undoubtedly con­ tributed to the calmer atmosphere. In effect, relations returned to normal, that is according to the latest West German interpretation, but not to where they had once been and where Israel would have liked them to have remained. But that point had been passed several years ago. Three decades had now elapsed since Auschwitz. Time was bound to mitigate any feelings of guilt for what had happened then. But there have been no serious incidents to disturb the West German-Israeli relationship since the end of 1973, yet mainly because of Israeli sensitivity there has been a certain amount of friction between the two countries. Changes of per­ sonalities exacerbated this phenomenon for a time. In 1974 Willy Brandt resigned from the chancellorship and was replaced by Helmut Schmidt, again of the SPD. Despite recent Israeli criticism there was much good will for Brandt in Israel as a man of great moral stature, prompting one newspaper to write of him that to Israel ‘he has always shown sincere friendship . . . We want to remember Brandt as the one who knelt before the Ghetto memorial. . . ” In 1977 the cabinet of Golda Meir was replaced by the right-wing Likud government of Menachem Begin, the leader of the Herut party which had persistently opposed any dealings with the Germans. Begin now accepted the German connection while Brandt’s successor Schmidt also continued broadly his predecessor’s Israel policy. But the more abrasive nature and authoritarian style of the one and the occasional return to the highly emotional and hawkish statements of the other, remembered from his time as Leader of the Opposition in the Knesset, led to angry exchanges and ruffled feelings on both sides.