Address by the President of the State of Israel, H.E. Shimon Peres, on the occasion of a state dinner in honor of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, H.E. Joachim Gauck
Israel welcomes you with open arms as the President of Germany, recognizing you as a courageous man, a freedom fighter, whose aspiration for liberty has been, and still is, a vital priority throughout your life. Germany can be proud to have at its head a man for whom freedom is his guiding light and the purpose of his life.
Your visit to Israel, so soon after you assumed the presidency, is a significant and central factor in the special and complex relations between our peoples. Relations based on the building of a future alongside the memory of the past. Allow me to avail myself of this opportunity to congratulate you here in Jerusalem on your recent election to your prestigious post. We wish you every success in the important and historical missions ahead of you. You stand at the head of a nation that is a close and important ally of Israel.
The State of Israel was founded a mere three years after Nazi Germany’s surrender. It constituted, and still represents, a huge victory of the human spirit. The Jewish people celebrated the 64th anniversary of the revival of its state, and no less important, proved the strength of its moral fiber. Israel’s society is a pluralistic society, multi-faceted and riveting. Jews live alongside Muslims, Druse, Circassians, and Christians, in a free, democratic, creative, curious and dynamic society. A society which reached the peaks of achievement in science, technology, culture and art. This is a society in which it is important for people to make a mark, improve things, work and endeavor to shape a more just world. We started from nothing and learned to use the latent abilities of man.
We fly, from times past and to this day, the flag of humanity, the banner of freedom, the standard of equality and democracy, and the flag of peace.
Mr. President, in you we find a loyal partner in raising all those flags high. The Holocaust remains a bleeding wound in our hearts, and the memory of the heinous deeds of that era have not faded nor will they ever fade. This is a chapter in Jewish history mourned by the nation as a whole.
Today’s Germany instills the horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons it has taught in its sons and daughters, and fights with all its might against any budding signs of racism.
Israel is following with concern the crisis affecting the European Union. It is not restricted to the economic aspect. The Euro bloc is not only a fiscal entity, but also represents a coalition of universal moral values, of liberalism, of mutual responsibility.
We are full of admiration for the role Germany is playing in this crisis. In partnership with the European leaders, it is seeking to rehabilitate Europe’s failing economies, while viewing the broader picture and keeping in mind the importance of stability. German resources are focusing on the task of building Europe, based on a political culture that understands that national interests are intertwined with regional and global interests. This political culture made it amply clear that in the modern world, the prosperity and well-being of one country depends on the prosperity and well-being of allies and even of adversaries. This is a strategy that stems from moral values. These are moral values that have turned into a well-appreciated strategy.
German society managed to rise from the abyss of its terrible past without erasing its memory. This manner of coping does not surprise us. Germany understood that in order to regenerate charred soil, it was necessary to rationally and courageously confront the painful scenes of the past. The relations we succeeded in cultivating and establishing between us represent the model of Germany’s stand vis-à-vis the European and global community.
The price of dismantling the European Union may cause the collapse not only of countries in Europe but outside of its borders as well. I believe that the cost of extricating Europe from its present dilemma is lower than the price of dismantling Europe and creating splintered countries that may revert to their mindset before their union: national self-interest and a propensity for never-ending conflicts and wars.
Europe stands at a difficult crossroad: strengthen its unity or dismantle its union. Of the most needed and rare commodities in the world today is wise and effective leadership. Not the welcome boost of the individual’s rights and standing, not the thankful raising of the head of civil societies, not globalization – none of these developments of the present era, excellent as they may be – managed to create as yet a new and updated model of a strong, sensitive and future-oriented leadership. In today’s world, leaders cannot rule, they must serve. The modern world disapproves of control, it prefers good will.
It is possibly Germany that may be able to offer the world today an effective leadership model that can deal with the challenges of our day – against extremism, segregation, economic self-centeredness, against violence and terror. The arms race, and the threat of terrorism, are the greatest enemies of us all, and terrible enemies call for a moral leadership, cautious and also charismatic. These will be the parameters by which Germany will be judged, the parameters by which Israel will be judged, the parameters by which we shall all be judged.
The immediate test is Iran.
The Iranian people are not our enemy, but the Iranian leadership has chosen autocracy over progress. It is the danger. The Iranian regime denies the Holocaust, and threatens a new holocaust. The regime in Iran claims that religion forbids the building of nuclear weapons but it develops such a weapon. The regime discriminates against women and shoots at demonstrators. Iran has become the international hub of terrorism. The citizens of Iran, Mr. President, are entitled to freedom, including liberty from the regime which leads them today.
A terrible human tragedy is unfolding before our very eyes in Syria. We cannot remain passive at the shocking sight of the mass graves of small children. I am full of respect for the people of Syria who are ready to risk their lives for freedom.
During the 47 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries, we have built an extensive network of close ties that are not solely reserved to statesmen and diplomats, but also encompass our two peoples: students, pupils, athletes, artists, authors and scientists. Within this framework there is the need for an open, sincere and candid dialogue among German and Israeli youth, in which they will discuss the past and build the future.
Mr. President, Since the meeting of Adenauer, Ben-Gurion and their followers, relations between our countries have strengthened. The new Germany has become a friend of Israel without forgetting the past. I seize this opportunity to thank Germany and its governments over the years for the important security-related aid extended, and your contribution to the advance of peace. We are at in the midst of a process to achieve peace with the Palestinians based on the principle of two states for two peoples. The process is complex, but I believe that the gaps can be overcome.
I would like to raise a toast in your honor, my friend Mr. President, and to your partner, Mrs. Daniela Schadt, and in honor of Israel-German relations.