Knesset votes to allow Merkel to address it in German

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will address the Knesset in German next Tuesday, following a vote in the House Committee to change the legislature's bylaws. MKs Arye Eldad and Uri Ariel of the National Union-National Religious Party voiced their strong opposition to Merkel's speech, telling the committee that it was "completely inappropriate" for the Knesset bylaws to be changed for her visit. In the end, however, the vote passed with seven in favor and the two NU-NRP MKs against. The bylaws now read that any foreign leader, whether chancellor or president, may address the Knesset in his or her native tongue. The previous wording read that only a "head of state" could address the plenum. Eldad called the decision a "capitulation." "I can't hear German in the Knesset plenum. It's the language that my grandfather and grandmother were killed in. I will get up and leave. If it's not necessary, don't bend the rules if only because the last words they heard were in German," Eldad said. MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) said he understood why Eldad was opposed to hearing German, and that the Holocaust was still an "open wound." "But other things need to be taken into account: Germany is today Israel's most stable friend in Europe. It is the anchor of support for us," Plesner said. "This anchor needs to be institutionalized and firmly established without relinquishing our memories of the past. Germany, with all of its strength, is on our side and supportive without reservations. We have significant joint interests." MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) added that refusing Merkel's request to address the plenum would have "bad diplomatic implications," to which the chairman of the House Committee, MK David Tal (Kadima), added that most of Europe was "tired of Israel. Israel needs to embrace an ally like Germany," Tal said. Merkel's appearance will not be the first time that a German leader addresses the Knesset. German Presidents Johannes Rau and Horst Köhler addressed the plenum in 2000 and 2005, respectively. Rau made history by being the first German to address the Knesset, provoking some MKs to walk out in protest and others to boycott the session. When Köhler spoke in 2005, several MKs boycotted the session, including Eldad, then-health minister Dan Naveh (Likud), Gila Finkelstein (NRP), Zvi Hendel (NU), Hemi Doron (Shinui) and Avraham Ravitz (United Torah Judaism). However, many MKs whose relatives perished in the Holocaust did attend the session.