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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Germany, Israel Bridge Bitter Past

MUNICH -- Germany and Israel have put aside their painful past to form an unlikely friendship that could help turn the vision of a peaceful and prosperous Middle East into reality.


The five decades since the end of World War II have not erased history for the nation that committed the Holocaust and the state that rose out of its ashes.


But two major events in the past five years -- German reunification and Middle East peace -- have allowed both sides to simultaneously recall the past, find common interests in the present and work closely for a better future.


The current warmth in German-Israeli relations was on display Thursday evening as B'nai B'rith, the charity group that is the largest Jewish organization in the world, presented its highest award to Chancellor Helmut Kohl.


Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres flew to Munich to give a speech praising Kohl as a miracle worker.


"Good relations between the State of Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany seem almost impossible," he told a banquet attended by top German politicians and business executives and Jewish leaders from Germany and the United States.


"Chancellor Helmut Kohl is, without a doubt, among those who have made this great miracle happen."


This bilateral harmony, still so new that most speakers mentioned how moving it was to see it, has a broad economic and political foundation to build on.


"Germany has become our second partner in the world after the United States," Avraham Primor, Israeli ambassador in Bonn, said after the banquet. "We cooperate in all areas."


Bonn's leading role in the European Union since unification in 1990 and its habit of shaping foreign policy through the EU mean German-Israeli ties are at the core of a broad new relationship between the EU and the new Middle East.


Israel's mistrust of the EU, which it saw as pro-Arab, and its heavy dependence on the U.S. long stood in the way of closer ties with Brussels.


But, German officials say, Kohl convinced the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin last year that the EU was a strong and dependable "second leg to stand on."