Israel’s PM Olmert’s Speech at the Special Knesset Session in Honor of the Chancellor of Germany

Photo by GPO
The Honorable President of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres
Madam Speaker of the Knesset, Ms. Dalia Itzik
The Honorable Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Madam Angela Merkel,
The Honorable Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Ms. Dorit Beinish,
Government Ministers,
Members of Knesset,
Distinguished Guests and Dear Friends,

This special session of the Knesset of Israel is honoring you, Madam Chancellor, as the courageous and outstanding leader of your people, as an exceptionally moral person, and as a steadfast and loyal friend to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. This is not the first time we have been privileged to host you in the State of Israel with feelings of respect and appreciation.

Welcome to our country and to the city of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of our people; the city about which the poet Heinrich Heine wrote in his poem “Yehuda Halevi” the very Jewish lines:

“Even in the dawn of his childhood
All his love existed
All his heart shuddered to hear
The word ‘Jerusalem’…”

Madam Chancellor, the deep bonds of friendship between Germany and Israel are not normal relations between two nations. They carry with them the oppressive weight of the historic memory to which our peoples are obligated, but it is because of this that they have such power, sensitivity and content which has no equal in any other place or between two sovereign nations in the international arena.

These “special relations” are an example of rising above the gloomy and dark remnants without denying them, and of the human ability to overcome and build a stable bridge above the chasms.

The State of Israel was established sixty years ago in the shadow of the Holocaust which consumed one third of our people. A few years later, its establishment sowed the first seed from which grew and flourished the renewed friendship between our peoples, against all odds. Two great leaders from opposite sides of the abyss, David Ben-Gurion and Konrad Adenauer, dared to chance the unbelievable, and plant the tender seedling in the burned ashes from which it seemed nothing would ever grow.

When the issue of contact with West Germany was first brought before the Knesset of Israel for discussion – the very same Knesset in which you, Madam, are the guest of honor today – the rafters of the Knesset shook and there was a storm and uproar, and justly so, as it had never stormed and raged before or since. However, the seed planted then, in 1952, cleaved, took root and grew, and changed the arid and barren landscape, saturated with pain and grief, which remained between our peoples.

The shared commitment to remember and learn, and to fight uncompromisingly against any attempt to deny and cause to forget is the foundation on which our relations were established and shaped.

Madam Chancellor,

Your important visit to the State of Israel allows us to discuss directly, at the highest level, the range of essential bilateral subjects between our countries and between the State of Israel and the European Union, and especially the problem of the nuclearization of Iran and the painful matter of our kidnapped and missing soldiers, with regard to which your people are making inestimable humanitarian efforts.

I would like, Madam Chancellor, to praise your strong and determined stand against the disgraceful call by Iran’s president to erase the State of Israel from the map, and against Tehran’s fraudulent and deceptive tactics to achieve nuclear weapons. Who else could understand how deeply the despicable anti-Semitic calls of the Holocaust denier who stands that the head of the Iranian regime touch the most sensitive nerve of our people’s consciousness, and how important your resolute stance and that of Germany is in this matter.

We were especially touched by your statement at the beginning of the week that a blow against the security of Israel is a blow against Germany’s security. The Jewish people are not as helpless as we were in the past, and the State of Israel will know how to defend itself against any threat and aggression. Nevertheless, the Iranian problem exceeds the boundaries of the State of Israel, and presents a serious danger to the stability of the entire Middle East and to world peace.

I have no doubt that your stance and that of your Government have contributed to the strengthening of the international front against Iran’s unrestrained pretension. However, many additional efforts are still needed to ensure that other important countries adopt the position of Germany and the countries which stand at the head of the campaign, to avert Iran from its dangerous path.

Madam Chancellor,

The highlight of your visit is the establishment of the German-Israeli inter-governmental consultation forum, a forum the likes of which your Government had only with a limited number of European countries. We profoundly appreciate this and see it as a priceless and extremely important gift to the sixty-year-old State of Israel, and it will help further strengthen our ties and relations.

The years of Nazi rule and the Holocaust overshadowed, but did not erase generations of vibrant Jewish life and the creation of a magnificent Jewish culture on German soil. The integration and contribution by our people to the economy, academia, science, judiciary, medicine, sport, poetry, music, art and all other cultural fields in the life of your country, as in the entire world, are engraved in history.

My hope and belief is that through the “special relations” between our countries, and by establishing the “consultation forum”, we are adding and writing the most important pages to a new chapter, and even if its roots can never be removed from the dark chapters, its peak has already ascended into clear skies.

Angela Merkel, loyal and dear friends, welcome to our home. Welcome to the State of Israel.