Merkel to Knesset: Germany filled with shame over Holocaust
German chancellor delivers historic speech before Israeli parliament. 'We bow our heads in honor of the Holocaust victims,' she says, adding 'terror attacks are a crime, do not resolve political disputes'. Olmert: Germany supports international front against Iran's nuclear ambitions
"Standing here before you is a great honor," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hebrew, as she addressed the Knesset Tuesday afternoon.
"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," she said,
this time in German.
"This year sees Israel celebrating its 60th anniversary… 60 years of fighting challenges in search for peace, 60 years of great constructions, 60 years of absorbing immigrants."
A number of MKs boycotted Merkel's speech in protest of the decision to allow the chancellor to address the Knesset in German.
Referring to the incessant rocket attacks on southern Israel, Merkel said "the Qassam fire must stop. Terror attacks are a crime, and do not resolve political disputes.
"As I've said before, Germany supports the vision of two states with peaceful borders - the Jewish nation in Israel and the Palestinian nation in Palestine. We realize that this will demand strength and painful concessions. Stability in the region is not in your interest alone; stability affects Germany and Europe as well," she said.
As for the Iranian threat, the German chancellor told parliament "it is not up to the world to prove that Iran is pursuing a nuclear bomb, but rather up to Iran to that it is not. If Iran does not accept this, Germany will push for further sanctions.
"If Iran were to obtain nuclear weapons, it would have disastrous consequences," Merkel said. "Especially in this place, I emphasize: Every German government and every chancellor before me was committed to the special responsibility Germany has for Israel's security.
"This historic responsibility is part of my country's fundamental policy. It means that for me, as a German chancellor, Israel's security is non-negotiable," she added.
Olmert, Merkel at Knesset (Photo: AP)
Merkel received a standing ovation from the MKs in attendance at the conclusion of her speech.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the special Knesset session that "the close bonds of friendship between Germany and Israel are not regular relations between two nations.
"They carry the heavy weight of historical memory to which we are obligated. But this is exactly why they (also) contain power, sensitivity and substance that are unparalleled between any two nations in the international arena."
The Israeli PM added that "the Iranian nuclear threat is a danger to the stability of the entire region as well as for world peace.
"I have no doubt that you and your government's stand on the issue has gone a long way in aiding the international front against Iran's ambition," he said.
Ppposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu told parliament prior to Merkel's speech that although Germany was fighting anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism, "the scars of the past are very deep and can't be treated in a single generation, if they can be treated at all."
Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who also spoke ahead of Merkel, said "it is not obvious that we open our hearts to you. Rivers of blood have cut between us and we do not want to (forget) the terrible Holocaust. It's shadow will hover over us and you."
Earlier Tuesday Merkel attended a special state reception held in her honor at the Knesset.
'It's like they vanished off the face of the earth'
"Welcome to our home," said Knesset Speaker Itzik at the beginning of the ceremony. "I want to thank you for your efforts on behalf of out kidnapped soldiers. I know how hard you try."
Women all over the world, continued Itzik, look up to Germany's leader and her vision of leadership and commitment to the peace process.
"Your visit is an important step in the tightening relations between Jerusalem and Berlin, in what many would consider beating the odds," added the Knesset speaker.
Attending the reception were also the families of kidnapped Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who handed Merkel personal letters.
Zvi Regev, Eldad's father, told Ynet that should he be able to speak to the chancellor in person, he would ask her to try and get the families some information regarding their sons: "It's been 32 months and we don't know anything… it's like they vanished off the face of the earth. It's time we knew something."
UN resolution 1701, he added, calls for their immediate, unconditional release: "The resolution was a while back, but they still should be released. I don't know if she can do anything, but she should try."
Miki Goldwasser, Ehud's mother, handed Merkel a letter expressing similar thoughts as well. "I said that all countries should insist on upholding various human rights conventions," she told Ynet. "(The kidnappings) happened in Israel, but tomorrow they can happen somewhere else. This shouldn’t be perceived solely as Israel's problem."