(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met yesterday evening (Sunday, 29 Jan. 2006) with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and made the following remarks:

"We are very pleased to host you on your first visit to the State of Israel as chancellor and we are especially pleased that you have come to visit.  We are one of the first countries that you are visiting in the context of your new position as German chancellor.

"We are marking 40 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. We are united in our deep obligation to continue cultivating bilateral relations in the diplomatic, security, economic and social spheres. 

"Israel and Germany are important trade partners and the scope of bilateral this year and last year is $4.3 billion.  Germany is Israel’s second biggest trading partner.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the very important cooperation and the considerable assistance that Germany has provided Israel regarding our POWs and MIAs, especially Ron Arad.

"I would like to thank you for your deep commitment to the struggle against international terrorism and for the steps you are taking to make it more difficult for and/or prevent terrorist organizations from receiving financing via charitable organizations, the European activities of which you are blocking.

"We held a very important conversation on several issue on both our agenda and that of the international community.  I would like to point out with great satisfaction that regarding the recent regrettable developments in the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the wake of Hamas’s victory in the elections, we have reached a clear understanding about the principles that must guide the international community regarding the future of the PA.  Both you and I, both Germany and Israel, believe that there can be no acceptance of terrorism and no negotiations with terrorist groups, nor with a government that is composed in this or that fashion of groups that engage in terrorism and which are not prepared to recognize the existence of the State of Israel.  I very much appreciate this joint stand which is shared by us, Europe and the US.

"I would like to note with great satisfaction the commitment that Germany has shown to the struggle against anti-Semitism.  Such phenomena have found increasing expression in Europe in recent years.  We cannot be indifferent.  I note with satisfaction the commitment of Germany and of your government to the forceful and unreserved struggle against such phenomena.

"I would like to express the condolences of the State and Government of Israel to Germany on the passing of former President Johannes Rau, who was a great leader, and a great friend of Israel and of the city of Jerusalem.  We share in the sorrow of the German people over the death of the former president.

"Finally, we also discussed the Iranian issue, which is very much disturbing both us and the international community.  I thank you for Germany’s efforts in struggling against the Iranian nuclear danger.  We are dealing with this issue and will continue to do so and I believe that we will continue working together in order to remove this danger from our agenda and that of the entire international community.

"And again, thank you for your visit and for your friendship with Israel."

Chancellor Angela Merkel made the following remarks:

"I thank you for the reception and on my behalf and that of the German people, I would like to say that we are thinking of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and wish a quick recovery and all the best.

"I have come here on my first visit, a get-acquainted visit, because I wanted to emphasize how important the State of Israel is to me.

"We discussed the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel and are now marking 40 years of such relations and I wanted to say that due to our past, in wake of the Holocaust and the Nazi Party, relations between Germany and Israel will always be very special and we also want to develop future relations so that the new generation will be able to benefit from relations in the diplomatic, scientific, cultural and other spheres.  We want the younger generation to benefit from this as well.

"We discussed the current situation, the PA elections and Hamas’s victory.  Cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians – as it has been made clear – will be possible only if they meet three conditions: The renunciation of terrorism and violence, recognizing Israel’s existence and right to exist, and accepting all of the existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements.  This is Germany’s position and we will also make it clear to the European Union and I believe that we will receive its assent on this issue as well.

"We discussed the situation in Iran and the threat to Israel in the wake of Iran’s armament efforts and we said that this is not only a threat to Israel but to the entire democratic world.  Iran is now crossing a red line and Germany finds to be unacceptable the Iranian President’s remarks regarding the distortion of history and we cannot countenance this.  We will work to expand the refusal to accept Iran’s position and we will create a broad base that will refute this position.

"Thank you, we also have many future projects that we will be able to consult about."

In response to a question about the transfer of funds to the PA, Acting Prime Minister Olmert replied: "I have no intention whatsoever of allowing the transfer of funds that will be used for terrorism.  We will not lend a hand to this.  We are not prepared – under any circumstances – to see funds transferred by the Israeli Government come under the eventual control of murderers who are interested in attacking Israeli citizens.  At this stage, we are studying the situation and checking on developments, and we are, of course, very sensitive to Abu Mazen’s authority and position, but in the circumstances that have been created we have to be cautious."

In response to a question on future Israeli-German relations, Acting Prime Minister Olmert replied: "There will never be normalization in relations between Israel and Germany.  Neither we nor the Germans can expect the existence of normal relations as with other countries.  Our bilateral relations will always be intertwined with memories that will never be erased from the heart of any Jew and, I believe, from the heart of any German.  The substantive question is whether we are able to build on the basis of this memory a relationship that will give hope both to us and to Germany that such things will never happen again. 

"I would like to add that there is a generation of Germans that is leading Germany today and Chancellor Merkel is certainly its outstanding representative.  They are committed to the same values that we are.  They understand the depth, scope and significance of the struggle of the State of Israel and the Jewish People to build a better future for ourselves in this land.  This basis of understanding assures that future bilateral relations will embody cooperation, mutual assistance, a broad economic partnership and the development of cultural relations, based on these values, principles and memories."