Israel Germany relations
The new study says 48% of Germans have a poor opinion of Israel while 35% equate Israeli policies towards the Palestinians with Nazi policies towards the Jews Getty Images

At least half of Germans have a "poor" opinion of Israel, a study has suggested.

The paper, "Germany and Israel Today: Linked by the Past, Divided by the Present?", by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation, said that only 36% of Germans have a positive attitude towards the country, while 48% say that their opinion of Israel is poor.

"This figure rises to 54% among the age group between 18 and 29 years. Attitudes towards the Israeli government are especially critical, with 62% of Germans expressing a negative opinion," the paper said.

"The perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has an increasingly dominant impact on the way Germans view Israel as a whole."

The results of the study, published as the world is set to mark 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, were obtained after researchers analysed surveys conducted by polling firm TNS Emnid on behalf of the Bertelsmann Foundation in January 2013 in Germany and among Jewish Israelis.

Survey data from 1991 and 2007 were used for comparison purposes.

"84% of Israelis hope that the German government will provide political support for Israel in the Middle East conflict, but one in two Germans opposes such support," the paper said. "Similarly, 82% of Israelis want Germany to supply weapons to Israel, but 68% of Germans reject this idea."

Stephan Vopel, the foundation's expert on Israel, explained that in the early 1990s, one in four Germans believed that only Israel should make concessions in the Palestinian conflict, but today, only one in six still holds this view.

At the same time, 73% believe that Israelis and Palestinians should be equally willing to compromise in order to achieve peace, and a majority (53%) among Israeli respondents share this view.

A good opinion of Germany has increased among Israelis as only 48% of Jews had a positive attitude towards Germany in 1991, while today the percentage has risen to 68%.

"It must be noted, however, that Germany's image is better among older Israelis than among their younger compatriots. While approximately 80% of Israelis aged over 50 view Germany in a positive light, the same is true of only 53% of those under 30," the paper said.

Researchers said the study does not claim to offer an in-depth analysis of "the complex phenomenon of anti-Semitism", but it simply examines individual aspects of anti-Semitic attitudes.

The paper added that anti-Semitic attitudes are declining in Germany as only "23% of German respondents say that Jews have too much influence in the world, compared to 36% in the early 1990s.

"However anti-Semitism directed against Israel is also a cause for concern: 35% of German respondents, up from 30% in 2007, equate Israeli policies towards the Palestinians with Nazi policies towards the Jews."

Vopel said: "A great deal of progress has been made in Israeli-German relations in the past 50 years. To preserve and consolidate this progress, we must create more opportunities for direct encounters between young people from both countries."

Facing growing concern over the rise of far-right groups in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed in January to protect Jews and Muslims against prejudice.

"We will prosecute anti-Semitic crimes by all legal means," she said during a debate on the recent attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where 12 people were killed by two armed gunmen claiming they belonged to al-Qaeda.