President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Joachim Gauck, arrived in Israel on Monday, May 28, 2012, for a state visit. On Tuesday morning (May 29), President Shimon Peres held an official state welcome ceremony for him.
Peres: "The friendship that has been formed has not come at the expense of the memory of the Holocaust but as a result of a joint desire to also look forward to the new Germany."
– Remarks by President Peres at state dinner for German President Gauck
The President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Joachim Gauck arrived in Israel on Monday, May 28, 2012, for a state visit.
The German President, Mr. Joachim Gauck, began his state visit to Israel on Tuesday morning (May 29), as a guest of President Shimon Peres. President Peres welcomed his guest in an official state ceremony at the President’s residence and the two conducted a work meeting. At the start of the ceremony, after the national anthems, the presidents reviewed an honour guard of soldiers from the Israeli navy as a special tribute to the unique security relations between the two countries.
In statements in the garden of the President’s Official Residence, President Gauck told President Peres: "This is a very special moment for me, to stand here 70 years after the crimes committed by Nazi Germany. The responsibility is constant and it exists in every place where Israel and Germany continue to cooperate. The German government and the office of the German president carry a responsibility for history in the past, present and future."
President Gauck added, "After the war our two countries created history when we rebuilt relations. This seemed to be impossible but it became a reality because Israel put faith in Germany. Learning from the past and putting faith in each other will help us shape the future. Germany sees the protection of the security of the state of Israel as a crucial matter and believes that Israel should live in peace with secure borders. I am convinced that a solution to the conflict can be reached through direct negotiations between the two sides and a mutual recognition of demands."
On the issue of Iran the German President said: "The Iranian nuclear programme is a source of great concern for me especially considering the statements made by the Iranian government. This programme poses a real threat not only to Israel but also to the whole region as well as to Europe. Germany, and her partners, want to achieve real results from the talks with Iran, results that will guarantee peace."
President Peres told President Gauck: "For the positive development of German-Israel relations I want to thank you, Mr. President, the German people and the German government led Chancellor Merkel. This relationship is both ideological and practical. The friendship that has been formed has not come at the expense of the memory of the Holocaust but as a result of a joint desire to also look forward to the new Germany, to a horizon of tikkun olam, repairing the world."
President Peres said to his guest: "We will never forget the Holocaust. We will also never forget our responsibility to build a different future. Germany has fulfilled and continues to fulfill a role in the security of the State of Israel and our desire for peace with our neighbours, first and foremost with the Palestinian people. We have a great responsibility – to complete the negotiations with the Palestinians as soon as is possible. We agreed with the Palestinians on a solution of two nation states for two nations; an Arab state – Palestine and a Jewish state – Israel. The differences between the two sides are surmountable. Europe, and within it Germany, supports this solution and is playing a role in achieving it, something we appreciate greatly.
President Peres addressed the issue of Iran and said: "Mr. President, once again difficult issues are appearing in front of our eyes and testing our consciences. The Iranian people are not our enemy but the policies of the Iranian government are hovering as a dark shadow over the world. The leaders of Iran say that religion forbids the building of nuclear weapons, but those acting in their name are building just such a weapon. The leaders of Iran deny the Holocaust and at the same time threaten a new Holocaust. There is no place for complacency. Indifference to horror is the greatest horror of all."
With regards to Syria, President Peres said: "Another tragedy is now taking place, in Syria. Who can keep the tears from their eyes when witnessing a line of tiny coffins bearing the bodies of children who were shot and killed under the orders of their President? The President is meant to be the father of the nation; instead he is shooting his children. Children are the most wonderful of all creatures, totally innocent. It makes no difference to which nation a person belongs, he must belong to humanity and share its values. Assad’s actions are a crime against humanity." Later President Peres added that there is a limit to speeches and declarations and the world should act to restore freedom and peace to the Syrian people.
President Peres addressed current relations between Germany and Israel: "German-Israel relations are strong and all-encompassing; they have within them a civil and social dynamic that is both fascinating and worthwhile. Students, spiritual leaders and scientists all conduct regular productive interactions which lead to enriching friendships. They create hope for a better future. I know that these issues are close to your heart and your visit will contribute to them all. Welcome."
With the conclusion of the official welcoming ceremony and the working meeting conducted by the two, President Peres accompanied his German counterpart to a tour of the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem during which the two conducted a memorial service at the Hall of Remembrance.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman will meet with German President Gauck later in the afternoon. In the course of his visit, President Gauck will also meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and surviving members of Israel’s 1972 team from the Munich Olympics.