The Knesset marked 50 years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel with a speech by Bundestag President Norbert Lammert in the plenum Wednesday.
Lammert opened his speech by speaking in Hebrew, thanking the Knesset for the invitation and the warm reception, before moving to German and calling the legislature “the beating heart of Israeli democracy.”
“The intensive friendship between our two countries is a historic miracle. This miracle happened mostly thanks to the abilities of two veteran and experienced leaders – David Ben-Gurion and Konrad Adenauer – to make a decision,” he said.
If Germany and Israel could become close allies after the trauma of the Holocaust, then no conflict is intractable, Lammert posited.
As for negotiations with the Palestinians, the Bundestag president admitted that there are differences of opinion between Germany and Israel, but that allies can disagree, and dealing with disagreements strengthens a partnership and makes it more honest.
“Israel has the same right as its neighbors to live in internationally recognized borders without fear, terror and violence,” Lammert stated. “At the same time, we do not ignore Israel’s responsibility for the situation in the Palestinian territories. Discussions of this matter must take place, first and foremost, here in Israel, as they do, sometimes heatedly but always democratically, in the Knesset.”
Lammert added that Germany feels a special responsibility toward Israel because of its history, and as such Germany’s stance is that “Israeli security and a long-term solution can be reached only if there is stable peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.”
“Many issues can be up for negotiation – but not the existence of the State of Israel,” he declared.
Lammert also referred to anti-Semitism in Europe, calling it shameful and saying it must be fought, and as such he plans to organize an interparliamentary conference in Berlin next year on fighting anti-Semitism.
“We cannot ignore anti-Semitism no matter where it breaks out. In Germany, anti-Semitism is intolerable,” he said.
Lammert concluded his speech by saying that he wants to strengthen ties between Israel and Germany.
“We are proud of the partnership,” he added in Hebrew.
In the past, speeches in the Knesset in German have been controversial events, with lawmakers boycotting them. MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union), whose parents were Holocaust survivors, sat out when German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the Knesset in 2008. However, she said she overcame her emotional block when it came to Germans and Germany in 2013, when she visited Germany for the first time for an international conference of socialist party leaders.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein spoke of the sensitiveness of speeches in German, pointing out that many MKs are children and grandchildren of survivors.
“We cannot forgive in the name of any of the six million who were killed in cruel and unusual ways, and not in the name of any of the survivors,” he stated.
In light of that, Edelstein said, efforts must be made to build trust and cooperation.
“Do not deny, do not ignore and do not try to sweep anything under the rug. Remember the past clearly in order to deal with it and ensure that something like this will never happen again, not to the Jewish people or anyone else,” he added.
In that vein, the speaker called on Germany to take a leading role in fighting anti-Semitism.
“Germany is a true friend of Israel,” Edelstein said. “Their standing with us and the Jewish people is more meaningful than ever, especially at this time, when there is a battle against anti-Semitism and its new form, anti-Israelism.”
“There are voices from the younger generation [of Germans] who say that despite the commitment to remember the Holocaust, that does not necessitate support for Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people. Therefore, sir, your standing here today... has great importance to the public in Israel and citizens of Germany and beyond. The lessons of the Holocaust are not just universal, they are also particular, in relation to the Jewish people and Israel,” he stated.
As for those who seek to boycott Israel, Edelstein said they are “blind to the fact that this stopped being a local conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians long ago.... The real battle is much bigger; it is a clash of civilizations taking place on religious and cultural lines between radical Islam and the free, tolerant world.”
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