“When it comes to the safety and security of Israel, Germany is not neutral”

Photo of Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister of Israel Naftali Bennett.

Federal Chancellor Merkel’s visit began with a meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Photo: Federal Government/Denzel

“Israel’s safety and security is a key element in Germany’s national interests”, said the Federal Chancellor at a press conference with Prime Minister Bennett, noting that this was a decisive influence on how Germany acts, even if opinions differed on individual questions. “When it comes to the safety and security of Israel, Germany is not neutral”, Merkel stressed, and that the critical objective is the vision of Israel as “a safe and secure Jewish democratic state.” For Merkel, even though the idea of a two-state solution currently seemed to have no prospect of success, it was one which we should hold onto and keep in our sights, so that the Palestinians, too, would be able to live safely and securely in one state.

Good relations are “to be treasured”

The fact that Germany and Israel enjoy such good relations today is “a godsend, something to be treasured,” Merkel said: “Something this precious must always be looked after.” This was the Federal Chancellor’s seventh visit to Israel during her time in office, and it is likely to be her last.

Fostering a unique relationship

Close communications and ongoing collaborations are a sign of Germany’s unique relationship with Israel, one which is based on Germany’s historic responsibility towards Israel and its sense of shared values. For the Federal Chancellor, it is Germany’s duty to keep the responsibility for history alive, “even when, one day, there are no more contemporary witnesses.”  

Meeting with the new cabinet

Following her talks with the Prime Minister, the Federal Chancellor met the Israeli government’s new cabinet, after which she met the President of Israel, Itzhak Herzog.

Visit to Yad Vashem and honorary doctorate

That afternoon, the Federal Chancellor visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Centre, accompanied by the Israeli Prime Minister. After a wreath-laying ceremony, the programme included visiting an exhibition and the future documentation centre. “Every visit to Yad Vashem touches me to the core in new ways. The crimes against the Jewish people documented here are an everlasting warning and responsibility to us as Germans”, wrote Merkel in the visitors’ book. “The fact that Jewish life has put down roots again in Germany after the crimes against humanity of the Shoah in Germany is an immeasurable token of trust, and we are grateful for it. This trust drives us to take decisive action every day against anti-Semitism, hatred and violence. This obligation falls to every Federal Government.”

Later that afternoon, the Federal Chancellor was awarded an honorary doctorate by Haifa Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. In the early evening she held talks with the Alternate Prime Minister and current Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Federal Chancellor Merkel’s visit concluded on Monday with a round table with representatives of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Jerusalem. In her closing remarks she stressed the trend towards social polarisation all around the world, which is prompting a resurgence of antisemitism. This antisemitism – just like any other hatred of people who look or think differently – was a major threat to our democracies, said the Federal Chancellor, who noted that Germany had a great deal of work to do in the light of the increase in antisemitism. She also expressed her gratitude to INSS for its analysis, which did not gloss over the difficult issues.

Consolidating German-Israeli friendship

This visit was a sign of a strong and close friendship between Germany and Israel. Ever since diplomatic relations were established on 12 May 1965, the two countries have worked to deepen their partnership.

Willy Brandt became the first serving Federal Chancellor to visit Israel in June 1973. He established the formula for German-Israeli relations: our normal relationships have the character of something unique.

To mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, Federal Chancellor Merkel gave a speech to the Knesset in German in 2008, in which she stressed that Germany and Israel were and would always be bound together in a unique way by the memory of the Shoah. Regular German-Israeli governmental consultations have taken place since 2008, the seventh and most recent of which was held in 2018.

The two countries’ economies are also closely linked. Germany is now Israel’s most important trading partner within the EU. Trade between the two nations was worth 6.9 billion dollars (US) in 2019. Products marked “Made in Germany” enjoy an excellent reputation in Israel.

Germany stands up for the state of Israel’s right to exist and, as an active partner within the EU, is supporting peace efforts in the Middle East. In the United Nations, Germany advocates the fair treatment of the conflicting parties in the Middle East.