German president affirms commitment to Israel's security

Wulff arrives in Israel on his first official visit to the region since taking office just under half a year ago.

German President Christian Wulff (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
German President Christian Wulff
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Germany is committed to the continued existence of the State of Israel in peace and security, German President Christian Wulff said Sunday at a reception hosted in his honor by President Shimon Peres.
Wulff, 51, arrived in Israel on Saturday on his first official visit to the region since taking office just under half a year ago. He visited Turkey in October, which may factor into his discussions with Israeli leaders.
'Turks in Germany must learn to speak the language'
Diplomat knocks Frankfurt mayor for honoring anti-Zionist
Wulff, who early in his presidency expressed a desire to visit Israel, has a history of staunch opposition to anti- Semitism. Accompanying him on his visit are his 17-year-old daughter Annalena and other German teenagers, in a demonstration of Germany’s commitment to teach its youth about the evils of the Holocaust and the need to do everything possible to compensate the Jewish people.
Over the years, thousands of young Germans have come to Israel on student exchange programs and as volunteers to work in social welfare organizations and institutions, particularly those dedicated to helping Holocaust survivors.
Wulff referred to these young people in his address when speaking of Germany’s commitment, saying that this was a message that must be passed on to future generations.
The German president declared that Israel could only be guaranteed peace and security through a two-state solution in which Israel and the Palestinians lived side by side at the conclusion of a just and comprehensive agreement. He said he would discuss this further with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
As painful as the settlement issue is for Israel, he continued, it is something that must be discussed in order to be able to take advantage of every window of opportunity.
Germany, he said, is aware of Israel’s position on all matters related to the peace process and is prepared to make these known to the world, and thereby make its own modest contribution to future developments.
In welcoming Wulff, Peres said Israel had been following his statements in his various capacities before becoming president, and noted that he had displayed “a deep understanding” of the Holocaust and the Jewish People.
“Our relations with Germany are as important as relations can be,” said Peres, underscoring that the German leadership and the German people remembered the past and recognized that there must be a special relationship with Israel not only in politics, but in science, culture, the arts and all other levels.
While the past cannot be changed, said Peres, both countries have to be responsible for the future and must place greater emphasis on a moral code.
“Without a moral code there can be no defense for terrorism, corruption and war,” he said.
He also stressed the importance of a moral code with regard to science, saying that though it could contribute many positive things to humanity, it “can also produce nuclear bombs to destroy countries.”
Although Israel has great scientific achievements to its credit Peres said, “what we’re lacking is peace.”
He was convinced that peace with the Palestinians, especially the moderates in the Palestinian camp, would not only bring benefits to both nations, but also serve the interests of fighting terrorism and imperialism.
He expressed appreciation to Germany for its support in attempting to make peace and helping both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to move ahead.
Wulff is the first German president born after World War II. His four-day visit is designed to underscore that Germany’s post-war generation will continue the dialogue and the special relationship that Germany has forged with Israel, despite dissenting voices that have been rising in recent years in Germany. Unlike his predecessor Horst Koehler, Wulff will not address the Knesset, because his visit, though official, is not a state visit.
He is in the country as a guest of Peres, who hosted an official reception and a luncheon in Wulff’s honor on Sunday and accompanied him to Yad Vashem – as did the German teens and the members of his entourage, which included representatives of Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, members of the Bundestag, leaders of the Jewish community, 10 businessmen and 20 journalists.
Three days earlier, during his visit to Ukraine, Peres attended a memorial ceremony for the tens of thousands of Jews murdered by the Nazis at Babi Yar, where he recited Kaddish and where he and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman placed stones that they had specially brought from Jerusalem.
Most visiting heads of state go from Yad Vashem to the nearby Grove of Nations on Mount Herzl to plant a tree.
This was not included in Wulff’s schedule, but he did lay a wreath at the tomb of Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl.
Later in the day, Wulff met with Lieberman. He is also scheduled to meet with opposition leader Tzipi Livni and with writer David Grossman, as well as with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, with whom he will dine at the prime minister’s official residence.
During his visit, Wulff will also meet with Holocaust survivors and leading members of Israel’s business community.
Before leaving on Tuesday to return to Berlin, Wulff will go to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity and meet with Abbas. He specifically asked to meet with the PA president in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, because he was concerned about the growing Christian exodus from the city.