Poll Shows That Thanks to Merkel, Israelis Love Germany

A new survey shows that 70% of Israelis have a positive view of the country, due in some part to the chancellor's popularity.

Ofer Aderet
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds her mobile phone during a session of the Bundestag Lower House of parliament in Berlin on June 4, 2014.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds her mobile phone during a session of the Bundestag Lower House of parliament in Berlin on June 4, 2014. Credit: AFP
Ofer Aderet

Most Israelis have a positive attitude toward Germany, and about one-quarter of them even see it in an “extremely positive” light, according to a new poll published Monday by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

The poll by the German think-tank and educational organization was conducted to mark the approaching 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and West Germany.

The results indicate, specifically, that about 70 percent of Israelis regard Germany in a positive or extremely positive light — a slight increase compared with surveys from previous years. In contrast, 23 percent of Israelis regard the country in a negative or extremely negative light.

It appears that the positive attitude toward Germany is also affected by Israelis’ great support for Chancellor Angela Merkel: About 70 percent of those surveyed see her in a positive or extremely positive light, as compared with 50 percent in 2007 and 56 percent in 2009. The poll found that Israelis’ support for Merkel, which is higher among men than women, increases with the respondents’ age.

Israelis’ affection for Germany as a country does not translate directly to affection for the German people per se. Fifty-six percent of Jews in Israel think Germans are cold and distant. One-fourth of Israelis, according to the survey, hold the opposite view of Germans on average, believing they are “open, have joie de vivre and are warmhearted.”

The poll found that the Holocaust and Germany’s Nazi past are still present in Israeli discourse to some extent. When respondents were asked to say what the word “Germany” called to mind, the word “Holocaust” was the most popular response. After that came Germany’s beautiful landscapes, and then its friendship with Israel. Only 71 of 1,000 respondents associated the word “Germany” with the word “Nazis.”

Most of the Israelis polled (65 percent) still believe that Israel’s relationship with Germany will remain “special” in the future as well because of the memories of the past. Twenty-three percent, however, believe that history will not have an effect on the nature of the relationship between Germany and Israel.

The survey revealed that history is also responsible for Berlin’s popularity among Israelis. Respondents ranked the fact that it is a “modern city” in first place, “historical importance” came in second, and other reasons, such as its being “cool” or “fun,” were pushed to the bottom of the list.

The poll, conducted by telephone in December, was conducted among some 1,000 respondents, all Israelis over 18 years of age. The poll was conducted by Keevoon Global Research.

According to the Palestinian portion of the report, though Germany enjoys a positive reputation among 49 percent of respondents, that group still sees room for improvement in relations.

A clear majority of those surveyed - 53 per cent - believe the German government supports the Palestinian endeavor for statehood, but only 25 per cent of respondents agree that Germany is already an important ally.

"Where we find Palestinians having questions or being critical is on the question of settlements," said Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and a main researcher in the survey.

Despite their hesitations, more than half of Palestinian respondents would welcome Germany taking a more active role in international politics, and almost three-quarters - 74 per cent - would like to see very close or close Palestinian-German relations.

"Overall, Palestinians do not believe that Germany is an 'honest broker' at the moment, but they are, in fact, inviting the Germans to play a more active role," Shikaki said.

Shikaki added that such an active role in the Middle East would be welcomed by Palestinians as well as by Israelis, both in international politics and in their respective bilateral relations.

"Given that both Palestinians and Israelis do not have high hopes for an American role in peacemaking, I think this is an indication that both sides would welcome a German leading role in any initiative in peacemaking," Shikaki told dpa.

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