This visit of the President of Germany in Israel, as a guest of the President of the State of Israel, is the first of a series of events which will mark 40 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany.
Address by Prime Minister Sharon to the Knesset on the occasion of the visit of German President Horst Köhler
Mr. President of the Federal Republic of Germany,
Members of Knesset,
I am very happy to stand here on the Knesset podium and welcome our guest, the President of Germany, Prof. Horst Köhler.
This visit of the President of Germany in Israel, as a guest of the President of the State of Israel, is the first of a series of events which will mark 40 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. However, it is held in the shadow of another event, which we marked only last week – 60 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
The relations between the two countries – Israel and Germany – have been characterized, and will always be characterized, by these two symbolic dates. One marks the bloody divide which was opened between our two nations during World War II – a divide which will remain between us forever. The second tries to bridge the gap through a range of ties which has increasingly expanded over the years, and today constitute friendly relations and full and fruitful cooperation.
Even 60 years after the Holocaust, the pain over the terrible loss of millions of innocent Jews, who were massacred merely for being Jewish, has not faded. The Jewish people will never recover from the murder of their sons and daughters by the Nazis and their collaborators. There cannot be and there is no pardon and forgiveness for what the Jewish people suffered at the hands of the Germans. There cannot be and there is no pardon for the annihilation of European Jewry – an entire world of wisdom and industry, extraordinary talent which could have contributed greatly to all of humanity. All this was destroyed and lost in the worst and most terrible act of murder throughout history.
Assuming moral responsibility for the sins of the past does not absolve the current European leadership from its responsibility for preventing future crimes against the Jewish people. For the sake of the future, it is important to persevere in educating the younger generation and wage an unceasing war against all expressions of anti-Semitism and racism, which have steadily increased in recent years. In light of these expressions of “new anti-Semitism”, it is also Israel’s duty to expand its efforts to inform the public of its unique situation and explain its position to the younger generation worldwide. If, in the past, anti-Semites were opposed to Jews being equal members of society, then the new anti-Semites deny the right of the Jewish people to defend themselves, as a State which is an equal member of the family of nations.
The new anti-Semites are inspired by a number of insincere leaders. They oppose hatred of Jews, denounce the Holocaust, and demand that people remember and never forget. However, at the same time, they undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel, oppose the Jewish people’s right to self-defense, object to the war against terror and to the struggle against countries and organizations such as Iran, Syria and the Hizbullah, which aim to destroy Israel.
The only way to ensure the existence of the Jewish people is a free Jewish State which is capable of defending itself. Whoever objects to this, in fact, condones hatred of Israel.
The different stations you will pass during your visit to Israel – Mount Herzl and Mount Zion, Tel Hashomer Hospital and Beit Hatefutzot, Sderot, the Weizmann Institute, the Hebrew University and Yad Vashem – will tell you, briefly, the story of this Land.
60 years after the Holocaust, the tremendous achievements by the State of Israel in all fields, serve to prove what we could have achieved with the help of those talented people who were destroyed. Despite the fact that we have meager rainfall, our agriculture is among the most advanced in the world. Despite its small size, Israel is among the leading countries in the world in the field of Hi-Tech, and is a member of the exclusive club of countries which launched satellites into space. It is a country in which the level of science, medicine and culture sparks envy throughout the world. It is a country which is considered the richest in the world in terms of intellectual capital. It is a country which is considered to have the best engineers in the world. It is a country in which 5 million residents absorbed an additional one million citizens within a decade – an impressive and unprecedented achievement, in international terms.
The assistance we received from the Government of Germany in many fields, is what enabled us to attain these achievements, and we certainly value this.
In the 40 years which have passed since the establishment of diplomatic ties between our countries, these have expanded increasingly and impressively. Germany has reiterated time and again its commitment to the security and welfare of Israel, and has backed up this commitment with actions, in critical hours. Germany rose to Israel’s assistance in the attempt to solve the painful humanitarian problem of our missing soldiers. I wish to thank all those who took part in these endeavors and the success achieved so far, and express the hope that our joint efforts will soon lead to the return of our remaining missing soldiers. Their anxious families and the entire Israeli nation are grateful to you for that.
I wish you an enjoyable and fruitful visit to our country, and to both countries – continued advancement on the path we have pursued for 40 years.
Thank you very much.