Ashkenazi tells Emirati FM of family story at Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

Ashkenazi and Bin Zayed were invited to Berlin by the German Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan meet with German's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, October 6, 2020 (photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan meet with German's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, October 6, 2020
(photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)
United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi made history on Tuesday, with the former being the first senior official of an Arab state visiting a Holocaust memorial or museum since Egyptian president Anwar Sadat did so in 1977.
The two went to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin as part of a visit hosted by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
Bin Zayed wrote in the memorial’s guestbook: “This very important place commemorates the death of many innocents who lost their lives due to hatred and extremism, and emphasizes at the same time human values such as tolerance, peaceful coexistence, acceptance of others and respect for different religions and beliefs.
“These are my country’s foundations and will always be a major driver of its developmental process,” he added.
The UAE foreign minister concluded his message with “never again.”
Maas told bin Zayed that Ashkenazi is the son of a Holocaust survivor, and the UAE minister asked to hear more about his family’s story. Ashkenazi’s father survived a concentration camp in Bulgaria, moved to Israel and fought in the War of Independence.
Ashkenazi wrote in the guestbook: “I stand here silently as the foreign minister of the Government of Israel and the former commander of its army. Our presence here together symbolizes the beginning of a new age, an age of peace between nations.
“Our joint signature in the memorial book is a shout and an oath together: Remember and do not forget. Be strong and ensure that this will never happen again,” he added.
The foreign minister also quoted from Jewish prayers, asking God to “make peace for us and all of Israel, Amen.”
Ashkenazi and bin Zayed held one-on-one and trilateral meetings to focus on security, visa issues, aviation arrangements and establishing embassies in each other’s countries, as well as cooperation in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
In a press conference following the meetings, Ashkenazi thanked the UAE for its courage in promoting peace.
“The peace accords are a big step for the region,” he said. “Our presence here today symbolizes a new age of peace, stability, growth and hope; an age in which we will see tourists from the Emirates freely visiting the holy sites for all three [monotheistic] religions and Israeli tourists and businesspeople flying directly to the Emirates.”
Ashkenazi also called for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, saying that “the longer we drag this on and wait for negotiations to start, the more difficult it will be.”
Bin Zayed also said peace between his country and Israel could bring “new hope” to the Palestinians.
On Monday night, Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan slammed the Palestinian leadership in a 40-minute interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya.
“The Palestinian cause is a just cause, but its advocates are failures,” said Bandar, who also served as the Saudi ambassador to the US for 22 years.
The Saudi prince said the Palestinian cause has been “robbed... by both Israel and Palestinian leaders equally.”
He went back in history, pointing to Palestinian leader Hajj Amin al-Husseini – who stoked massacres against Jews in pre-state years and met with Hitler, supporting his plans to kill the Jews of Europe – and PLO leader Yasser Arafat for siding with Saddam Hussein during the 1990 Gulf War.
Bandar also criticized the current Palestinian leadership’s alliances.
“Who are the allies of the Palestinians now? Is it Iran, which is using the Palestinian cause as a bargaining card at the expense of the Palestinian people?” he asked, “or is it Turkey, which Hamas leaders have thanked for its stance in support of Hamas and the Palestinian cause? That is simply because Erdogan announced that he was withdrawing his ambassador from the UAE in support of the Palestinian cause,” he stated.
The Saudi prince said it was “painful to hear” the Palestinian leadership’s criticism of the UAE and Bahrain. For example, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called normalization a “stab in the back of the Palestinian people,” though he later apologized.
“This low level of discourse is not what we expect from officials who seek to gain global support for their cause,” Bandar said. “Their transgression against the Gulf states’ leadership with this reprehensible discourse is entirely unacceptable.”