Yes, these are special, unique relationships. With everlasting responsibility for the past, with common values, with reciprocal trust, with great solidarity towards one another, and with mutual assurances . . .
Translation of Angela Merkels Speech before the Knesset, March 18th 2008
Translation by Ruth Hanna Sachs
Mr. Prime Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Mrs. President, I thank you for permitting me to speak here today. I feel it is a great honor.
I thank all the representatives in the Knesset as well for this. I thank all of you for allowing me to speak to you today in my mother tongue. I am speaking to you in a special year. Because in this year – 2008 – you are celebrating the 60th anniversary of your nation, the nation of Israel.
60 years of Israel – those are 60 years of magnificent construction carried out by people under difficult circumstances.
60 years of Israel – those are 60 years of challenges in the battle against threats. and for peace and security.
60 years of Israel – those are 60 years of integrating immigrants into the community of this nation.
60 years of Israel – this is a country full of vitality and confidence. With top technological performance. With cultural wealth and traditions.
60 years of Israel – this is above all occasion for great joy. In the name of the federal government [of Germany] and the German people, I congratulate all the citizens of Israel on the occasion of this anniversary.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Germany and Israel are and remain – indeed forever – connected in a special way through remembrance of the Shoah.
Specifically for that reason, we began the first ever German-Israeli governmental consultation with a commemoration at Yad Vashem.
The mass murders of six million Jews, carried out in the name of the German people, brought indescribable sorrow upon the Jewish people, upon Europe, and the world.
The Shoah fills us Germans with shame. I bow before the victims. I bow before the survivors, and before all those who helped them survive.
The breach of civilization caused by the Shoah is unparalleled. It left behind wounds to this very day. Initially it appeared to make relations between Germany and Israel almost impossible.
For a long time, Israeli passports contained the clause: “Valid for all countries with the exception of Germany.”
Conversely, I myself lived the first 35 years of my life in a part of Germany – in the GDR – which considered National Socialism as a West German problem. The GDR did not recognize the Nation of Israel until shortly before its end. It took over forty years – until after the reunification of all of Germany – for it to recognize the Nation of Israel.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am deeply convinced: Only when Germany admits its everlasting responsibility for the moral catastrophe in German history, only then can we fashion a humane future. Put another way: Humanity will spring from taking responsibility for the past.
We often say: Special, unique relationships connect Germany and Israel. But what exactly is meant by that – unique relationships? Is my country in particular aware of these words – and to be sure, not merely in speeches and galas, but rather when it matters most?
For example, how do we behave – in a tangible manner – when the atrocities of National Socialism are relativized? There can only be one answer to this question: Every attempt to do so must be opposed when it very first appears. Anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia must never again be allowed to gain a foothold in Germany and in Europe.
And that is indeed because any other answer would endanger all of us together – German society, the European community, and the democratic basis for our countries.
Or how shall we behave when a clear majority of those surveyed in Europe say that the greater threat for world peace comes from Israel and not, say, from Iran? Should we European politicians then, in panic over public opinion, refuse to try to stop Iran’s nuclear program by means of additional and tougher sanctions?
No, however uncomfortable it may be, that is precisely what we may not do. If we were to do that, we would have neither understood our historical responsibility nor developed an awareness of the challenges of our era. Both would be fatal.
And it would be equally fatal to suppress the question as to how we can best keep alive the memory of the Shoah, because one day there will be no survivors left to bear witness.
Yes, it is true: Place of commemoration are important. Places like the Holocaust Museum in Berlin or Yad Vashem. They keep memory alive.
But it is also true: Places alone do not suffice. If memory becomes history. Memory must be re-proved, time and again. Thoughts must become words. And words must become deeds.
The first Prime Minister of your country, David Ben-Gurion, and the first Chancellor of my country, Konrad Adenauer, led the way. That is why it was important to me to go to Kibbutz Sde Boker on Sunday, to lay a wreath at the grave of David Ben-Gurion. Because it was Ben-Gurion and Adenauer who allowed thoughts to turn into words, and words into deeds. With prudence and foresight, they laid the foundation for the relationship between our nations.
But today it is up to us, to my generation, together with the younger generation, to awaken the awareness of a culture of remembrance, which will carry on when Shoah survivors are no longer among us. Naturally, no sure formula exists for this. But recognizing and accepting the challenge – precisely that is the first decisive step of developing creative means of a culture of remembrance for the future, working together with our youth. In Germany and in Israel collectively.
The same power that helped us in the past decades can also help us now: And that is the power to trust.
This power to trust has its origins in the values that we – Germany and Israel – mutually share. The values of freedom, democracy, and respect for human dignity.
That is the most precious commodity that we have: The inalienable and indivisible dignity of each individual – regardless of gender, national origin, language, faith, homeland, and ancestry.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The awareness of historical responsibility and advocacy of our shared values – that constitutes the foundation of German-Israeli relationships from the beginning to the present day.
Today we – Germans as well as Israelis, as well as all nations on this earth – live in a time of monumental upheaval. The fabric of the world is changing. The network of nations, economies, and societies reaches a hitherto unknown dimension.
Many people fear this development. They feel: The coexistence of nations, religions, and cultures ranks among the great, all-surpassing topics of the present. Grand perspectives are juxtaposed with considerable risks. This is globalization.
It is my firm conviction: In view of this groundbreaking global development, we need a global, but common awareness of the challenges of our world, an awareness that supersedes national boundaries. These challenges include – the fair sharing of wealth by all, protection of our climate, the battle against the new threats of terror and weapons of mass destruction.
But we need this awareness not only so we may recognize the challenges. Rather we need it to cope with them. These days, that means that one may not act unilaterally in most areas, but only with the cooperation of nations, and indeed those with which we are connected as partners in values and interests.
For me it goes without saying: Israel and Germany, Israel and Europe are such partners. We are connected by common values, connected through common challenges, and connected by common interests. Because stability, economic prosperity, security, and peace in Europe as well as in this region – these are all in our mutual interest.
Precisely in this awareness, we opened a new chapter in the history of the relationship between our two countries with the first German-Israeli Governmental Consultation. Precisely in this awareness, we adopted a whole package of projects and plans: In foreign policy, defense policy, in the field of economics, youth exchange programs, in cooperative efforts relating to the judiciary and environmental protection, and not least, in the field of science and research.
It is no exaggeration when we assert: The relationships between our two countries are excellent. But we wish to strengthen these connections and the trust between our peoples even further. We wish to improve our partnership:
In youth work – for example, with a cooperative German-Israeli “Forum for the Future” that will bring young Germans and Israelis together in economics, science, and culture.
In the field of science – for example, with a cooperative German-Israeli “Year of Science and Technology.”
In the realm of economic concerns – for example, with entrepreneurs in both countries utilizing the capabilities of both countries more than ever before, especially in cutting edge industries.
In the field of environmental and climate protection – for example, how the high-tech country of Israel can export its extensive Know-How, especially regarding water and irrigation technology, and how a new form of trilateral cooperative efforts between Germany, Israel, and Africa can be developed.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yesterday, we consulted about all of these – and additional – forward-looking projects and plans. But all these projects will not take place in a vacuum. For even as we were consulting, Israel was being threatened. While we are speaking here, thousands live in fear and dread of rockets attacks and Hamas terror.
I will say this clear and unmistakably: Hamas’s Qassam attacks must stop. Terror attacks are a crime. They solve nothing in this conflict, a conflict that casts a shadow over the region and the daily life of people in Israel and the life of people in the Palestinian Authority.
I have said this repeatedly and I will say it again here: Germany emphatically advocates the vision of two nations within secure borders, living in peace, one for the Jewish nation in Israel, and one for Palestinians in Palestine.
Subsequent to the conference in Annapolis, we therefore expressly support all efforts – particularly those of the American government – that contribute to turning this vision into deed. Those who do so are helping bring peace to the region.
I know very well: You do not need any unbidden counsel from without, and certainly none from above. After all, a solution can only be effected by you here in Israel and by the Palestinians.
But the support of the international community – that is what I would like to expressly offer you and your negotiating partners on the Palestinian side, led by President Abbas.
Because we know that the realization of the vision of two nations will require compromise that must be accepted by all sides. One will need the strength to make painful concessions.
And we know that it is not only in the best interest of this region to bring this process to fruition, but rather it is in all our interests. For instability here has consequences for us in Germany and Europe.
Therefore the situation in Lebanon involves great uncertainty as well. Germany supports the efforts of the Arab League to solve the crisis there.
But that will only be successful once Syria finally recognizes the legitimate government of Lebanon and contributes tangibly to the solution of the crisis. At this time, I would like to challenge Syria to do so.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Without a doubt, there is particular occasion for concern in the threats that the Iranian president levels at Israel and the Jewish nation.
His repeated vilification and the Iranian nuclear program are a danger to peace and security. If Iran were to possess an atomic bomb, that would have devastating consequences. Primarily and above all, for the nation of Israel, but then for the entire region and finally – far above and beyond – for everyone in Europe and in all the world for whom the values of freedom, democracy, and human dignity mean something. That must be stopped.
One thing must be clear; last September, I said this to the United Nations, and I will repeat it today: The world must not prove to Iran that it is building an atom bomb. Iran must convince the world that it does not want the atom bomb.
Precisely at this point, I will say expressly: Every German parliament and every Chancellor before me was duty bound to Israel’s security because of Germany’s particular historical responsibility.
Germany’s historical responsibility is part of the national sensibility of my country. That means, Israel’s security is never negotiable for me as German Chancellor.
And if that is the case, then when push comes to shove, those may not be empty words. Germany together with its partners seeks a diplomatic solution. If Iran will not relent, then Germany will resolutely advocate for sanctions.
The new resolution of the UN Security Council, passed a few days ago, proved once again the determination and the unity of the international community.
The international community will continue along this path. I will also advocate for a clear position within the European Union.
It is important to me to see that Israel is closely allied with the European Union by means of the EU’s Mediterranean Cooperative and the European Neighborhood Policy.
We can and will further intensify this alliance. I have said: Israel and Europe are connected through common values, challenges, and interests. Therefore I expressly support the stronger rapprochement with the European Union that Israel desires. It would be a win-win for all sides. It would present us with a plethora of new opportunities.
Mrs. President, ladies and gentlemen,
Europeans have learned through the history of their continent: Peace is possible, even after centuries of violent conflicts.
We Germans in particular have experienced this during the fall of the wall and reunification: Far-reaching political changes are possible even after decades, even after many have given up hope.
I could not stand before you today, and I could not speak to you today as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, as someone who grew up in the former GDR, if there had not been politicians in former West Germany after World War II such as Konrad Adenauer, Willy Brandt, and Helmut Kohl.
They believed in the power of freedom, in the power of democracy, and in the power of human dignity. They were able to make that which seemed impossible, possible: The consummation of the unification of Germany in peace and freedom and with it, the reconciliation of the European continent.
We may draw determination and confidence from the experience that that which seems impossible, is indeed possible, and that every effort to bring the Middle East one step closer to peaceful coexistence will likewise be rewarded.
Or in the well-known words of David Ben-Gurion: “He who does not believe in miracles, is not a realist.”
If we today, on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the nation of Israel, consider the German-Israeli relationship, we know: His words have proved to be not only correct, but also realistic.
Yes, these are special, unique relationships.
With everlasting responsibility for the past, with common values, with reciprocal trust, with great solidarity towards one another, and with mutual assurances.
In this spirit, we celebrate today’s anniversary. In this spirit, Germany will never forsake Israel, but will rather remain a faithful friend and partner.
Congratulations on the 60th anniversary of the nation of Israel! Shalom!