(JNS.org) German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited Israel on Monday and Tuesday as part of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Jewish state and Germany.
Von der Leyen was welcomed by an honor guard at the Israeli Defense Ministry's headquarters in Tel Aviv, where she had a meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on regional security issues and bilateral relations. That was followed by a joint press conference in which the defense leaders stressed the close relationship between their nations. Von der Leyen also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem.
"In the 50 years since formalization of our diplomatic relations, Germany has proven in word and in deed its commitment to Israel's security," Netanyahu told von der Leyen.
Von der Leyen’s visit took place at the same time that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is visiting Berlin, where he was welcomed by German President Joachim Gauck at the Bellevue Palace on Monday in a ceremony that also included a military honor guard.
"You arrived on a sunny day, a symbolic tribute to our bright relationship,” Gauck said, Israel Hayom reported. “The new Germany is reaching out to you. We are here by your side to support you when you are surrounded by threats. The vast majority of Germans are against anti-Semitism and its consequences, and we are doing everything we can to work against this phenomenon."
Yet despite the warm relations between leaders of the two countries, a Bertelsmann Foundation study conducted last October revealed that a majority of Germans ages 18-29 hold a negative view of Israel due to its conflict with the Palestinians.
"Many young Germans simply cannot internalize Israel’s self-defense wars against lethal anti-Semitic terroristic organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad," wrote Benjamin Weinthal, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in the Jerusalem Post. "It seems to pain sizable numbers of young Germans to extend the German slogan ‘Never Again Auschwitz’ beyond the frontiers of their borders to the Jewish state... large numbers of Germans (also) feel they have worked through the crimes of the Holocaust and are now positioned to provide didactic lessons to Israelis about the need for peace.”