Daily Telegraph: Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, will deliver an address to Israel’s Knesset today, marking a new high point in relations between the two countries. The Daily Telegraph
By Harry de Quetteville in Berlin and Tim Butcher in Jerusalem
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, will deliver an address to Israel’s Knesset today, marking a new high point in relations between the two countries.
Sixty-five years after the Holocaust, and just eight years after Israeli MPs walked out during a speech by Johannes Rau, the then German president, Mrs Merkel is securing a uniquely warm welcome in the Jewish state.
Accompanied by half her cabinet, her three-day trip to Israel has embraced penance for the crimes of World War II, and a raft of practical, bilateral agreements in defence and education.
In the Knesset today, she is due to underline Germany’s commitment to preventing Iran acquiring an atomic weapon, emphasising that “the threats which the state of Israel faces are also our threats”.
But Mrs Merkel has been criticised for a decision not to visit the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, or Palestinian leaders, as is usual on such trips.
In a press conference yesterday, she was asked repeatedly about Israel’s continuing expansion of settlements in occupied Palestinian land.
While she deflected the questions, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, insisted that the building programme would continue.
In Germany, analysts have been quick to suggest that Mrs Merkel’s trip smacks of cynical, self-serving diplomacy, as much as it does genuine reconciliation.
“States have relations, not feelings. It is clear that the crimes of Hitler are still gnawing at Germany’s psyche and it wants Israel to help its ego,” noted Malte Lehming in Der Tagesspiegel.
The Israeli government has agreed for the speech to be in German, although some Israeli politicians have voiced objections.
They said the German language would still be offensive to some Holocaust survivors and their descendants.
The chancellor visited Yad Vashem, the memorial to the victims of Nazi persecution.
Signing the guest book, she wrote: “In recognition of Germany’s responsibility for the Shoah, the German government underlines with the first German-Israeli consultations its determination for a joint shaping of the future.”