The Knesset House Committee on Tuesday voted to allow German Chancellor Angela Merkel the privilege of making a speech in the Knesset during her visit to Israel next week in spite of some opposition by rightist MKs.
A majority of seven MKs voted for the measure and two – MKs Arieh Eldad (National Union) and Uri Ariel (National Union) – voted against.
Notwithstanding the fact that the approval is merely technical and the committee's decision did not deal with what language Merkel's speech would be made in, the decision did raise ire among some in the Knesset plenum.
MK Arieh Eldad opposed the measure saying: "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."
Knesset Secretary-General Eyal Yinon explained that this was not an issue of amending Knesset code, but rather a simple decision. He noted that German representatives had already made speeches in German in the Knesset before. In any case, Yinon stated, according to procedures a state representative approved to speak in the Knesset may speak in whatever language he or she chooses.
MK Uri Ariel was also against allowing Merkel to speak German at the podium: "I don't think that on Shabbat, when we read the parasha about what Amalek did – and they are Amalekites – they are the father of the Amalekites…six million…
"It's all well and good that Germany changed its ways, and there are important things in the political and security sphere that they should be praised for, but to go back to the reptiles and to be wusses…what's the matter? What happened to us?
MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) responded to the debate saying: "My grandmother and grandfather were refugees from Germany, from the oppressive regime. The German language was not heard in their house because it was the language of the oppressors. I understand where MK Eldad is coming from. This wound is still open.
"But other things need to be taken into account: Germany is today the State of Israel's stable friend in Europe. It is the anchor of support for us. 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) said: "Refusing to allow the chancellor to appear in the Knesset is likely to have bad implications. Ironically, the appearance of the chancellor on the podium in the Jewish state is a big victory for the Jewish people."