Merkel to address Knesset in German

Knesset committee confirms speech, will not instruct as to the language; MK Eldad: I will leave the hall.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will speak to the Knesset in her native language next week, the Knesset Commitee decided on Tuesday. The vote carried through by a majority of seven to two. The decision was a formality, and concerned the actual fact of the speech rather than its language. Secretary of the Knesset, attorney Eyal Yanon, told the committee this was no amendment to the rules of the house, but rather a specific decision. He also noted that the Knesset hosted speeches in German before, and that there are no rules regarding to the language of the speech once permission had been given. MK Aryeh Eldad, who voted against the motion,said he could not "hear German at the Knesset. My grandparents were murdered in that language. I will leave the assembly, in the name of those for whom German words were the last words they ever heard." Merkel is scheduled to address the legislature next Monday, during a visit to the country accompanied by more than 80 diplomats and lawmakers. Knesset bylaws allow for heads of state, i.e. presidents and monarchs, to address the parliament. Earlier this week, Eldad claimed that allowing the German chancellor to address the Knesset in her native tongue would be a disgrace for the State of Israel. Eldad wrote a letter to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik requesting that Merkel deliver her speech in English, objected to Merkel's entire visit to the parliament. The Knesset House Committee is set to discuss the change on Monday. Eldad has already called the proceeding a "sham," likening it to a decision made under the Ottoman Empire in 1898 to demolish the wall opposite the Citadel to allow Kaiser William II direct access to the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. "They tore down the walls. The Knesset wants to tear down walls once again, and change its bylaws to accommodate a visiting German," Eldad said. "With all due respect, Germans obey the law more than anyone else, they should understand." A spokesman for the German Embassy said the matter was "for the plenum to decide" and that the German government would not get involved in the dispute. Eldad said his "ears would ring" at the sound of German in the Knesset. Those exact words were used in 2000 and 2005, when German presidents Johannes Rau and Horst Köhler, respectively, addressed the plenum. 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 decided to boycott the session, including Eldad (then National Union), health minister Dan Naveh (Likud), Gila Finkelstein (National Religious Party), Zvi Hendel (National Union), Hemi Doron (Shinui) and Avraham Ravitz (United Torah Judaism). However, many MKs whose relatives perished in the Holocaust did attend the session.