President Shimon Peres heaped praise on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her country on Tuesday during a working lunch he hosted in her honor at Beit Hanassi.
At the conclusion of the luncheon attended by 20 people, Merkel, considered one of Israel’s closest allies in Europe, declared that “the security of Israel is not just a two-state issue, but a global issue. We have to make certain that the security of Israel in secure borders is assured.”
Merkel was also of one mind with Israel regarding the dangers posed by Iran’s nuclear program, and stated that ways must be found to curb Iran’s missile capability.
Peres said Merkel was visiting Israel at the right time in view of the problems in the region. He commended her for her ability to recognize problems for what they were and to envision what the situation should be. Even though there might be some issues of dispute, he acknowledged, Merkel was a very serious individual “who has never sacrificed values for expediency,” and for this reason, said Peres, she has kept the trust of the people. “No one can question her trust and sincerity.”
In thanking Merkel for her continued support, Peres said, “We are lucky to have a leader on whom we can rely on every word and promise.”
One of the reasons for Merkel’s visit to Israel was to expand scientific cooperation. Science is high on the president’s agenda, and from his perspective, it’s the key to the future. It is larger than strategy, politics or economics, he said.
New developments in the region also made Merkel’s visit timely.
“What is happening in the Middle East requires a change in situation and not just in government,” said Peres, alluding to those countries on the cusp of new regimes. “Peace is needed between the Middle East and the new world.”
Turning back to relations with Germany and its presence in the region, Peres thanked Merkel for the role she was playing in trying to bring abducted soldier Gilad Schalit back home, and for the clear stand she has taken vis-à-vis Iran, which he said was creating an unnecessary danger to the free world.
Peres was also appreciative of the role Germany was playing in helping the Palestinians improve their economic and social standing. Germany has nine projects in the West Bank and as many as 25 in Gaza, said Peres. Several of these programs are water-related and have to do with purification and the creation of new sources. Others are focused on law and order.
Peres told Merkel that she demonstrated democracy in practice.
“Democracy begins with elections, but it doesn’t end with elections,” he noted. Hinting at possible scenarios in the region, Peres added, “If you elect the wrong people, you bring an end to democracy.”
The present problem in the Middle East, said Peres, stems not from ideology, but from poverty. The population has grown from around 150 million to close to 400 million.
“You have to give them food; you have to give them jobs; you have to give them hope,” said Peres, who implied that unrest could escalate.
“We don’t see the end of the picture,” he said.
With minimal land and water, Israel’s agricultural output is 95-percent reliant on science, said Peres, who also offered to share Israel’s know-how with the poor countries of the world, including Israel’s neighbors.
“We cannot remain an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty,” he stressed.
Merkel was keen to explore avenues of trilateral scientific cooperation, which she said would allow democracies to prosper and would facilitate change. Germany has supported a number of bilateral projects in Israel, she said, and has helped the Palestinians develop their own scientific projects. Germany has also assisted them in formulating and disciplining their security forces.
Reiterating Germany’s endorsement of a two-state solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Merkel saw no reason for events around
Israel to be used as an excuse for not advancing the peace process.
Merkel, who came to Israel with a delegation of ministers to participate
in a joint cabinet meeting with members of the government, said that
she looked forward to hosting Israeli ministers in Germany next year
when another joint cabinet meeting is due to take place.
Germany’s relations with Israel, she said, have no parallel with any other country to which Germany has ties.
In addition to a basket of Israeli flowers and herbs, Merkel took home
with her yet another honorary degree. Tel Aviv University conferred an
honorary doctorate on the chancellor in recognition of her role as an
outstanding world leader and her consistent support for the State of