The Middle East - In Their Own Words. Merkel

On March 18th, 2008, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in The Knesset, Israel’s Parliament. She spoke of the historic ties between the Holocaust, carried out as she said “in the name of Germany” and the creation of Israel. She spoke of the current business and educational ties between the two countries. Finally, Chancellor Merkel expressed her views on the security situation Israel faces and her support for a two-state solution. Here is Angela Merkel in her own words.

Ladies and gentlemen, we discussed all of these and other future projects and plans yesterday. However, none of them will be carried out in a vacuum. For while we were holding our talks, the threat to Israel continued. While we speak here today, thousands of people are living in fear and dread of missile attacks and acts of terror by Hamas. Let me state unequivocally that the Qassam attacks carried out by Hamas must stop. Acts of terror are a crime. They do nothing to resolve this conflict which overshadows the region and the day-to-day lives of people in Israel and the lives of people in the Palestinian territories.

I have stated repeatedly and say here again today that Germany is a staunch advocate of the vision of two states in secure borders and in peace, for the Jewish people in Israel and for the Palestinians in Palestine. We therefore strongly support all efforts following the Annapolis Conference – especially those of the American Administration – which can help realize this vision and bring peace to the region.

I am well aware that you do not need any unsolicited advice from outsiders and you most definitely do not need anyone talking down to you. Ultimately, a solution can only be worked out by Israelis and Palestinians themselves. However, I would like to expressly offer you and your negotiation partners on the Palestinian side, above all President Abbas, the support of the international community. For we know that compromises acceptable to all sides will have to be made if the two-state vision is to be realized. This will also require the strength to make painful concessions.

We know that the success of this difficult process is not only in the interest of this region but in the interest of us all. For instability here will not be without consequences for us in Germany and Europe. For instance, the situation in Lebanon in particular is another source of great uncertainty. Germany supports the endeavours of the Arab League to resolve the crisis there. But that will only be possible if Syria, too, finally recognizes Lebanon's legitimate government and makes a constructive contribution towards settling that crisis. I want to take this opportunity to urge Syria to do so.

Ladies and gentlemen, the threats directed against Israel and the Jewish people by the Iranian President are without doubt a particular cause for concern. His repeated vilifications and Iran's nuclear programme are a danger to peace and security. If Iran ever acquires nuclear weapons, the consequences will be disastrous – first and foremost for the security and existence of Israel, secondly for the entire region and ultimately, far beyond that, for all of us in Europe and the world, for all who cherish the values of freedom, democracy and human dignity. This must be prevented.

One thing must be clear here – I said this before the United Nations last September and I want to repeat it here today: The world does not have to prove to Iran that Iran is building a nuclear bomb. Iran has to convince the world that it is not striving towards such a bomb.

Here of all places I want to explicitly stress that every German Government and every German Chancellor before me has shouldered Germany's special historical responsibility for Israel's security. This historical responsibility is part of my country's raison d'être. For me as German Chancellor, therefore, Israel's security will never be open to negotiation. And that being the case, we must do more than pay lip-service to this commitment at this critical point. Together with its partners, Germany is setting its sights on a diplomatic solution. But if Iran does not come around, the German government will remain fully committed to sanctions.

The latest UN Security Council Resolution, adopted just a few days ago, once again demonstrates the international community's determination and unity of purpose. The international community will, indeed must, remain faithful to this approach. I will also continue to call for the European Union to take a clear stance. I believe it is important that Israel has close ties with the European Union via the EU's cooperation with the Mediterranean region and the European Neighbourhood Policy. We can and will further intensify these ties.

As I have already said, Israel and Europe are linked by shared values, challenges and interests. I thus firmly back Israel's desire for even closer links with the European Union. They would benefit both sides. They would provide a host of new opportunities.

Madam Speaker, ladies and gentlemen, in the course of their continent's history, Europeans have discovered that peace is possible even after centuries of violent conflict and strife. Through the miracle of the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification, we Germans in particular have experienced first-hand that even after decades, when many have given up all hope, profound political change can come about.

Angela Merkel is the Chacellor of Germany. This is an excerpt from a speech delivered on March 18th, 2008.


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