Address by Foreign Minister Westerwelle at the Global Forum of the American Jewish Committee in Washington, 3. may 2012
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Dear David Harris,
Dear Jacob Lew,
I was thirteen years old when my father first took me to Berlin.
He showed me what divided East and West.
But I saw more than the Wall.
I sensed the countless shades of grey of socialism.
The heavy grey that burdens all lives lived unfree.
I was not yet very political.
But I returned from that short trip with a deep and lasting impression: Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are more than abstract intellectual concepts.
I realized then that you can taste, smell and touch the difference between societies that are free and unfree.
This impression has stayed with me all my political life.
Without the support of our Allies the Western half of Berlin would not have remained free.
Without the encouragement and trust of the United States, Germany would not be reunited.
Without the commitment of hundreds of thousands of GI's and their families, Europe would not be whole and free today.
I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the American people for your commitment and support for a free and united Berlin, a free and united Germany, a free and united Europe.
When the Wall was brought down, in that miraculous November of 1989, the joy we felt in Germany was shared by America.
And the first Jewish organization to support the very idea of German unification was the American Jewish Committee.
We remain deeply grateful for that support and above all for the trust and the faith you put in us.
Trust and faith that were by no means self-evident.
I want to thank the American Jewish Committee and all its members for this friendship. Thank you also for many personal friendships that have grown over the years and that are very dear to me.
We remember the six million sons and daughters of the Jewish people who were murdered during the darkest chapter of Germany's history.
The memory of their fate, the memory of the racist perversion of German thought and German actions of those years, will stay with us through the ages.
Our country and our culture have been poorer ever since.
Nowhere is this void more visible than in Berlin.
And yet the American Jewish Committee started to build bridges again over the Atlantic, over the abyss of the past.
As early as the 1950s you organized education and exchange programs that made Germans familiar with American-Jewish life.
You established joint programs with our political foundations.
You started a very successful program with our armed forces, the Bundeswehr.
And finally you even opened an office in Berlin.
You wanted to be more than just guests.
You decided to stay for good.
And it is good that you did.
I am honored and glad to have two very special guests in my delegation that are with us tonight:
Charlotte Knobloch, Holocaust survivor and former President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany,
and Rafael Seligmann, the founder and editor of “Jewish Voice”, a new English-language journal from Berlin.
Almost miraculously, Berlin has re-emerged as the center of Jewish life in Germany.
The American Jewish Committee is an important part of this.
Let me take this opportunity to thank the founding director, Eugene Dubow, and the current director, Deidre Berger, for their outstanding work in Berlin.
Ladies and gentlemen,
when President Obama spoke at the U.S. Holocaust Museum last week, he said that remembrance without resolve was a hollow gesture, that awareness without action changes nothing.
I could not agree more. Germany's responsibility cannot be about the past only. It has an impact on the decisions that we make today.
Our world is changing dramatically.
We must build networks and relationships with newly emerging powers in a polycentric world.
Some of them are democracies, others are not.
We have to deal with all of them.
The great challenges of our time often require a joint effort and a broad coalition. But we should not forget that it does make a difference whether we have a democracy on the other side of the negotiating table or not.
The difference may not always be as obvious as it was between East and West Berlin.
But it remains a difference, and an important one.
In a world of change, we need a guiding light. The transatlantic partnership is a community of values. These are the ties that unite us. We will continue to stand up for the cause of democracy, of individual freedom, of human rights.
It is on the firm foundation of remembrance and shared ideals that Germany maintains its unique relationship with the State of Israel.
The roots of our relationship lie in the past: Together with Israel we are committed to preserving the memory of the Holocaust for future generations and to countering anti-Semitism across the globe.
Our relationship is forward looking.
Germany and Israel are partners and friends.
We are partners and friends because Israel is a vibrant democracy. To this day, Israel is the only full-fledged democracy in the region. I am proud that today German-Israeli ties are closer and stronger than ever.
We want to see Israel as a respected neighbour in a Middle East that is finally at peace.
And yet the Iranian regime continues to threaten Israel with annihilation.
I want you to know that we will continue to stand by Israel's side.
We will not remain silent when Israel is threatened or its legitimacy called into question.
We will stand up whenever Israel is unfairly singled out in multilateral fora.
And we will denounce any incitement against the State of Israel and its right to exist.
The current Iranian nuclear program represents an enormous danger. We do not deny or question Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Every claim to the contrary by the Iranian regime is nothing but propaganda. But we cannot and will not accept an Iranian nuclear weapon.
It would represent not only a threat to Israel but to the region
as a whole. And it would undermine the global non-proliferation regime, a cornerstone of global security.
That is why we are investing tremendous efforts into resolving this challenge.
Our aim is simple: We need substantive and verifiable guarantees that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.
I know there are many skeptics when it comes to a negotiated solution.
I am the last to underestimate the difficulties and challenges.
But I believe that our unity and our resolve are showing results.
We have stood united: The Europeans, the United States, and – time and again – also Russia and China, negotiating on behalf of the international community. And we have shown resolve in enacting ever stronger sanctions against an Iran that has so far refused to fully cooperate.
I am convinced that our dual-track approach is now having a real impact on the Iranian cost-benefit analysis.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are not naïve. Our patience is limited.
We have signaled to Iran the urgency of the situation.
We will not accept playing for time.
We will not accept talks for the sake of talks.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The developments in the Middle East of the last fifteen months have dramatically changed the strategic landscape.
We understand that this creates uncertainty and risks but also opportunities for Israel.
Part of the response, in our view, should be a renewed urgency for a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians.
Our vision is one we share with our American friends:
A secure State of Israel, living side by side with a viable, democratic and independent Palestinian state.
A solution based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps.
We continue to believe that a Two-State-Solution is in Israel's own best interest to protect and strengthen the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel.
President Peres recently, and rightly, called President Abbas a partner for peace.
We agree with President Peres.
And we believe that time is of the essence.
Thanks to American leadership peace between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan is based on the sound foundation of treaties.
This is how Israel could enjoy peace and security with both of them for the past decades.
It will be crucial and part of our joint political effort to preserve this architecture of peace in the coming months and years.
In Syria, people continue to be killed by brutal repression every day.
Other peoples in the region have successfully shaken off their corrupt leaders.
They have embarked on a path towards modernity that is neither easy nor without risk.
But no region is immune to the yearning for greater freedom, for justice and dignity.
Repression will not prevail.
Not in Syria, not elsewhere.
Globalization is far more than a globalization of trade and investment. We are witnessing a globalization of values that will transform our international landscape.
While far from perfect, our free societies offer the best hope for a world where prosperity wins over poverty, tolerance wins over hatred, and freedom wins over oppression.
I deeply believe that since those days in Berlin in the 1970s.
Yet freedom must be won again by each and every generation. The American Jewish Committee has been at Germany's side in this endeavor for many decades.
Tonight, I am proud and honored to be your guest and to pay tribute to your work. It has done much to make our world a better place.