(Communicated by the GPO)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will, on Sunday, 16 March 2008, arrive in Israel on an official visit. After being welcomed at the airport by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, she will visit Kibbutz Sde Boker and lay a wreath at the grave of former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
On Monday, 17 March 2008, Chancellor Merkel will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Later, a Special Cabinet meeting will be held with participation of Israeli and German ministers.
On Tuesday, 18 March 2008, at 16:30 she will address a special session of the Knesset plenum.
- Live broadcast from the Knesset
During her visit, Chancellor Merkel will also meet with President Shimon Peres, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni, and Likud Chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu.
Statements by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Ben-Gurion Airport welcoming ceremony
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: The State of Israel is proud to host the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, during her visit to Israel marking 60 years since the establishment of the State of Israel.
Germany is one of Israel’s strongest and most important allies in the world. The relations between our countries are based on a commitment and history spanning many years, on genuine solidarity and on shared basic values.
The Chancellor arrives here today at the head of a dignified delegation, which includes a long list of senior government ministers and parliamentarians from the entire spectrum of German politics, in order to establish a special dialogue of consultation between our two countries, with the purpose of even further strengthening and deepening the cooperation between us.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank you, Chancellor Merkel, from the bottom of my heart, for the unique friendship, the profound understanding of the political and security needs of the State of Israel and the unshakable commitment of both Germany as a whole and you personally to Israel’s security.
Over the past several years, the relations between Israel and Germany have grown even deeper in every field. Germany is Israel’s second largest trading partner. The ties between us in the fields of science, culture and the economy are productive and flourishing, and our cooperation in the political and security arenas is close and as courageous as ever. The policy of Chancellor Merkel and her government regarding the Middle East, also in the framework of the European Union and other international forums, has always been characterized by basic understanding; a practical, fair and positive approach; and inspirational courage and determination with regard to the struggle against terror and the campaign against the nuclear arming of Iran.
In the two years since I took office, Chancellor Merkel - who was the first leader to visit Israel after I assumed the position of Prime Minister - has become a confidante and strategic ally. The celebrations taking place in Germany marking the 60th anniversary of Israel, and especially the Chancellor’s visit to Israel at this historic time, are a clear expression of her warm personal friendship and the importance she attributes to the ties between our peoples.
On my behalf and on behalf of the people of Israel, I thank you again, Madam Chancellor, for your decision to visit Israel and celebrate with us the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel; for the importance you attribute to this visit; and for your genuine friendship for the State of Israel. The people of Israel appreciate your friendship and are grateful for your actions.
Welcome to Israel.
Chancellor Angela Merkel: Distinguished Prime Minister, Speaker of the Knesset, my colleagues from the Parliament, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you very much for the warm reception here in Israel.
We arrived here to mark Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations, many years of work by many people who endeavored to ensure the future of the relations between our peoples. These relations are in no way obvious, and therefore I will begin my visit at the grave of Ben-Gurion, who together with Konrad Adenauer established the relations between our peoples and worked to strengthen them.
I am grateful that we may begin a new chapter in the relations between us, and tomorrow we will begin with consultations between our governments. In the framework of these consultations, the historic responsibility of Germany will no doubt be expressed, but we will also deal with future projects designed to shape the world and make it better - a world of freedom, peace and cooperation.
We are aware of the threats Israel has faced during the past 60 years, and we would like to contribute to resolving the conflict through the two-state solution - one state for Jews, the State of Israel; and one for Palestinians on Palestinian territory.
We are grateful that we are able to hold these talks in a spirit of friendship. Thank you again for the warm welcome and congratulations on your 60th anniversary. I also convey the congratulations of the entire delegation, the German people and from me personally.
Joint statements by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel
17 March 2008
Madam Chancellor, Dr. Angela Merkel,
Vice Chancellor, Dr. Steinmeier,
Madam Vice Prime Minister, Minister Tzipi Livni,
Ministers of the German Government,
Ministers of the Government of Israel,
This is a unique event, perhaps even unprecedented, in the political history of the State of Israel. For the first time, a delegation of eight ministers, headed by the German Chancellor, sat in the Cabinet room and held a discussion with their counterparts in the Israeli Government, during which a long list of topics was discussed, which reflects cooperation on an unprecedented scale between our countries. In terms of relations with any country, this was an impressive event.
In terms of the relations between Israel and Germany, they have substance, meaning and profound symbolism. It is pointless at this juncture to embark on a complex discussion of the very special history of the relations between Germany and Israel. What is important is that we not forget anything, but also we must not relinquish the chance and obligation to act together in order to ensure a better future for our peoples, for the region and for the entire world - a future of security, reconciliation, tolerance and peace.
Through these efforts, Chancellor Merkel and her Government are loyal partners to the State of Israel. They are our partners and deeply and genuinely share with us our commitment to the values and principles which are the basis for the existence, actions and future of the State of Israel. They are true friends to the State of Israel and play an extremely active role in our shared struggles for matters which are of vital importance - to us and to the entire world.
During the past two days, I have held a series of very serious and significant discussions with Chancellor Merkel which dealt with a range of topics. Of course, we discussed the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the State of Israel’s commitment to continue these negotiations and make every effort so that they come to fruition ahead of an understanding for the outline of a solution of two states for two people in the coming year. We spoke at length about the Government of Israel’s determination to continue the struggle against Palestinian terror, especially that which targets innocent citizens in Southern Israel and other areas, and we clarified that the State of Israel will not hesitate to continue striking at these terrorists in order to realize our duty to protect our citizens.
We also spoke of other aspects of the local arena, and of course discussed at length the shared position of Germany and Israel in the fight to prevent the nuclear armament of Iran. Both Germany and Israel, as is reflected in our statements as well, view Iran’s continued steps to obtain nuclear weapons in a similar manner and with great concern, and we also share the recognition that there is a need to continue implementing a series of steps which will lead to the cessation of this process. I would like to thank the Chancellor for her cooperation and for the special way she chose to express the profound moral commitment of her country and her people to the future of the State of Israel, and for the cooperation in various fields which will ensure the ongoing ties between our Governments and our peoples in order to fulfill the goals which we set for ourselves.
The Honorable Prime Minister, Mr. Ehud Olmert,
Dear colleagues, German and Israeli,
Today we held in Israel the first inter-governmental consultations between Germany and Israel, and I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude, on behalf of the entire German delegation, for the warm and friendly hospitality which you afforded us.
It was a unique experience for us today at Yad Vashem to unite with the memory of the Holocaust victims. It was important for us that you were there with us and I think it was very important that we began our consultations with a visit to Yad Vashem. It was an exceptional gesture on your part to be there with us.
The relations between our nations will always remain special. This is true also for our generation, the generation who is currently responsible for the policies of the Federal Republic of Germany. We know that we must find new ways of thinking if we wish to preserve the memory of the Holocaust even after its victims will no longer be with us. We are pleased that we are able to do this in cooperation with you and to discuss these things together. At the same time, we are aware of the fact that the special relations will remain so only if we shape together the present and future projects. Today's consultations between the German and Israeli governments are the best manifestation of this. They prove that our relations stand on a solid basis and that they are deeply rooted in our societies. This should be the goal, because only those who know themselves can discuss the problems, and those who discuss the problems can also find solutions. In this context, it was also very impressive to follow the projects of the various ministers. I believe that beyond the "classic" government ministries, such as the foreign ministries, defense ministries and economic ministries, there are entirely new possibilities for cooperation in the field of science, youth exchange and environmental protection. We must explore these possibilities and implement them.
We are here with you on Israel's 60th anniversary, and we extend to you the greetings of the Federal Government and the people of Germany. It is also clear to us that throughout the sixty years of Israel's existence, there have always been periods in which Israel was forced to fight for its security and defend its right to exist. We, of course, discussed also the threats which Israel faces. We discussed the fact that those threats to which you are exposed are threats aimed at us as well. We all wish to resolve the conflicts. We discussed the Annapolis process, the peace process, and were very pleased to learn that we see eye-to-eye on this issue and that the Government of Israel does not see any alternative to this peace process, not even under the very difficult circumstances which currently exist. We know that we can only make a very limited contribution to this process, but we would like to do whatever we can in order for the process to succeed. I know that today's talks also addressed the necessary means to achieve this. It is clear to us that the commitments undertaken by the parties must be preserved. We discussed that. It is also clear to us that a two-state solution is being formulated, a state for the Jewish people and a state for the Palestinian people. In the coming months we will do everything in our power - Prime Minister, you have set a time-frame - in order to support the negotiations, and if needed, talk with the parties.
We also discussed the Iranian threat. The world does not have to prove that Iran is working on a nuclear program. It is Iran which must show to the world, in a transparent manner, that it is not engaged in nuclear development. There are some doubts on this issue, and therefore, we are united in the opinion that we must do everything in our power, through sanctions, through steps by the European Union, but also through talks in the framework of the European Union, to exert as strong a pressure as possible on Iran. Germany supports a diplomatic solution to the conflict. I believe that we must continue along this policy. We support a policy which unites as many partners as possible in the world. The result is that the process often moves forward slowly, but I believe that this is the right path and that there is no substitute.
Our talks proved that there is a great deal of consensus between us. They also showed that we are still faced with many challenges which need to be resolved. Therefore, the cooperation between us will remain very intensive, not only during Israel's 60th year, but also beyond this time frame. It will be our honor to welcome you in Germany for the inter-governmental talks next year, at which time Germany will be celebrating its 60th anniversary and also the 20th anniversary since the fall of the Berlin Wall - a formative event, the historic impact of which is evident far beyond the borders of Europe. We will continue, through talks, to maintain close contact on different levels.
I thank you wholeheartedly for the hospitality and for the invitation to the inter-governmental consultations between Germany and Israel, and I extend my warmest greetings to the people of Israel.