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"Israel is not alone"

23.02.2014 - Interview

Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier in the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on the occasion of the German Israeli intergovernmental consultations. Published on 23 February 2014

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The Jewish and democratic State of Israel has a unique connection with Germany. No other state in Europe works as closely with Israel as we do in the fields of politics, science, culture and business. It was a long and difficult journey that our countries travelled together to reach this point and given our history it seems like a miracle. Would anyone in Israel ever trust the country of the perpetrators?

When, in 1965, Germany and Israel established diplomatic relations, they regarded each other warily. It is unlikely that any observer would have predicted that nearly 50 years later, German and Israeli Ministers would sit at a cabinet table together to organise cooperation in a wide range of political fields. And yet that is exactly what the Federal Chancellor and 14 German Ministers will be doing with their Israeli colleagues from next Monday onwards.

How tangible the effects of this cooperation are for people in Germany and Israel can be seen in the arrangement on consular assistance that we are going to sign. In the future, Israeli nationals in a state of distress will be able to obtain assistance from German consular officers if they are in countries in which Israel has no consular post of its own. This unique agreement once again illustrates how deeply Germany and Israel trust each other and how special the quality of relations between the two countries is.

Our meeting comes at a time of dramatic change in the Middle East. Syria is sinking into a brutal civil war. Israel’s Arab neighbours are being shaken by protests and changes in leadership. New and dangerous terrorist structures are undermining weak state structures in Israel’s neighbourhood. The Iranian nuclear programme looms threateningly on the horizon.

Nonetheless, this is also a time of negotiations and attempts to find political solutions. Under the auspices of the United States’ mediation efforts, Israel decided to hold talks with the Palestinians on a two state solution. We fully support this endeavour and encourage Israel to make the difficult yet necessary decisions. In Vienna, the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany are in negotiations on the future of the Iranian nuclear programme. Our aim here is clear: the nuclear armament of Iran is unacceptable.

Israel often feels that it has been left on its own and is not understood. The current debates on Europe’s policy on Israel have highlighted this once again. Yet Israel has not been left on its own. Germany and Europe are important partners who resolutely advocate Israel’s legitimacy and right to exist. Does this mean that we will agree on all issues? That is unlikely. It means that Israel and its people are very important to us. So important, that for years we have time and again made political efforts to achieve lasting and stable peace for Israel and its neighbours. So important that we clearly address and strive to overcome all obstacles along the way. And equally so important that we go to great lengths to champion a strong Israel.

As Foreign Minister of Germany, it means a lot to me that my country and Israel have established a multi faceted friendship. It is both invaluable and unique.

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