German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who previously served as Berlin’s top diplomat, arrived in Israel for his first official state visit since taking office, scheduled to last four days.
In the first act as Germany’s visiting President, Steinmeier arrived at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, where he declared that because of the painful history of his people, Berlin assumed the responsibility to “stand firm at Israel’s side and work for a shared future.” “Germans are laden with inconceivable guilt. Here at this place the memory is entirely pain, sorrow and shame. In responsibility for what happened, we stand firm at Israel’s side and work for a shared future,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
President Steinmeier concluded his visit at the Holocaust Memorial Museum by laying a wreath in memory of the six million Jews that were murdered during World War Two.
From Yad Vashem, President Steinmeier continued for a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Reuven Rivlin, during which the Israeli President emphasized that even though the traumatic past will never be forgotten, ‘a respectful and special relationship’ between Jerusalem and Berlin persists. “Mr. President, your current visit joins the visits of foreign minister Gabriel and former president Gauck two weeks ago. Together, these visits are proof that actually, the traumatic past, which will never be forgotten, gave rise to a respectful and special relationship between Germany and Israel,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said.
President Steinmeier’s visit comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to cancel a meeting last month with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel over his meeting with NGO’s that are critical of Israel’s government policy, as well as of the military’s treatment of the Palestinians. The dispute threatened to widen a rift between Israel and Germany over Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank, yet in an attempt to alleviate the tension, the German President emphasized that the foundation of the bilateral relations between Jerusalem and Berlin remain firm. Nevertheless, Steinmeier warned Rivlin that the current situation between Israel and the Palestinians cannot be maintained, as it only provides an illusion of security that is not sustainable. “I believe that it’s also still necessary, or even now more necessary, to talk about the future of the entire region. Hence about the question of how to work towards — what is, in my point of view, always and still the only thinkable perspective — of a two-state-solution. How we can further work towards it. Other solutions are by all means not available, and the status quo — we have had this experience over the past years again and again — delivers only an illusion of security and it is not sustainable,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
Following his meeting with his Israeli counterpart, President Steinmeier met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during which the two discussed regional challenges, as well as bilateral relations, and underlined yet again the strong relationship between Israel and Germany, a sentiment reiterated in all the meetings with the German President. Prime Minister Netanyahu also took the opportunity to emphasize Israel’s interest in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, yet pointed to an ongoing phenomenon – in which the Palestinian leadership continues to praise those that committed acts of terror against Israelis. “Welcome back to Jerusalem we’ve had so many opportunities to see each other yeah and your former capacities but this is your first visit to Israel as the president of Germany you’re only welcome we have a unique partnership unique alliance I think it’s born of a specialist stock perspective understanding of importance of ensuring that we secure a future of peace and prosperity,” Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said.