Wednesday, 19 March 2008

I bow in shame over Holocaust, Merkel tells Israel’s parliament

DAILY MAIL, Wednesday 19 March

From Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem

ANGELA Merkel yesterday became the first German Chancellor to address the Israeli parliament, triggering protests from the families of Holocaust victims.
‘I can’t bear the thought of hearing German in the Knesset,’ said Arieh Eldad, a Right-wing MP who was one of a handful who boycotted the session.
‘This is the language my grandparents were murdered in.’
But those who heard Mrs Merkel open and close her speech in Hebrew applauded her.
The German leader said she bowed in shame to Holocaust victims.
‘The Shoah fills us Germans with shame,’ she said, using the Hebrew word for the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed. ‘I bow to the victims. I bow to all those who helped the survivors.’
She closed her speech by saying in Hebrew: ‘Congratulations on the State of Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations. Shalom.’
Mrs Merkel, 53, the first German Chancellor to be born after the Second World War, was ending a symbolic three-day visit.
Iran’s nuclear programme was high on the agenda of her discussions with Israeli leaders.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has described Tehran’s nuclear programme as a threat to the existence of the Jewish state.
Iran denies it is seeking atomic arms and says it is pursuing its nuclear programme and uranium enrichment for power generation.
But Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’.
‘The threats the Iranian president is launching against Israel and the Jewish people are without doubt a particular cause for concern,’ Mrs Merkel said in her speech. ‘If Iran gained access to the atomic bomb, this would have devastating consequences. This must be prevented.
‘Germany is setting its sights on a diplomatic solution, together with its partners. The German government will, if Iran does not give in, continue to defend sanctions resolutely.’
In her address, Mrs Merkel, who visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Monday, said every German chancellor felt Germany’s ‘historical responsibility’ for Israel’s security.
‘I am deeply convinced that only if Germany avows itself to its everlasting responsibility for the moral disaster in German history, we can build the future humanely,’ she said, describing IsraeliGerman relations as excellent.
Prime Minister Olmert, who addressed the session, broadcast live on two Israeli television channels and three German networks, called Mrs Merkel a ‘constant friend’ and said Israel’s ‘ties with Germany have transcended grim and dark events’.

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