German chancellor to address Knesset

Angela Merkel will be the first chancellor to do so when she arrives for an official visit in March.

Merkel 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Merkel 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that she has been invited to address the Knesset next month in what will be the first such speech by a German head of government. Merkel already was due to travel to Israel on March 17 with members of her Cabinet for a summit meant to underline the strength of the countries' relations. "I have an invitation to speak before the Knesset, which is naturally a great honor and challenge," Merkel told reporters. Merkel will be the first chancellor to address the Knesset, although German presidents - who hold a largely ceremonial position - have previously given speeches there. In 2000, then-President Johannes Rau became the first person to speak German in the Israeli parliament, making an emotional plea for forgiveness. "I am asking for forgiveness for what Germans have done, for myself and my generation, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, whose future I would like to see alongside the children of Israel," Rau said. Current President Horst Koehler expressed "shame and humility" toward the victims of the Holocaust during a speech, also given in German, in February 2005.