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Historic responsibility and forward-looking friendship – Maas visits the Middle East

Heiko Maas meets Benjamin Netanyahu

Heiko Maas meets Benjamin Netanyahu, © Xander Heinl/photothek.net

25.03.2018 - Article

First official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories: On Sunday and Monday (25 and 26 March), Foreign Minister Heiko Maas held talks with Rivlin, Netanyahu and Abbas.

Visit to Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Centre

“We must never forget,” Heiko Maas said.
“We must never forget,” Heiko Maas said.© Xander Heinl/photothek.net

Germany has a special responsibility for Israel’s right to exist. Commitment to the security of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state remains a cornerstone of German foreign policy, while Germany stands resolute in the fight against anti-Semitism. “Responsibility for and solidarity with the Jewish and democratic State of Israel are at the heart of our foreign policy coordinate system,” Maas said prior to his departure. Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Centre was thus the first place he visited during his trip to the Middle East. 

“Yad vashem” means a “memorial and a name” and refers to the passage “Unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a memorial and a name” in the Book of Isaiah. The memorial on the Mount of Remembrance informs visitors about Jewish life and suffering. Maas had previously visited Yad Vashem during his term as Justice Minister.

Speaking at Yad Vashem, Maas underlined that “we must never forget”. “Germany is responsible for the most heinous crime in the history of humankind.” As a result, it has a special responsibility to defend human rights and tolerance worldwide at all times and to stand up against anti-Semitism and racism, Maas said.

Conflict in the Middle East: no bridge-burning

It is important to remember the responsibility for the past, but also to shape the future together. Current political issues were thus also on the agenda of the Foreign Minister’s visit to the Middle East. Germany’s position on the conflict in the Middle East remains unchanged. Only a negotiated two-state solution can do justice to the legitimate claims of both states, and the borders of 1967 may not be changed.

Meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah
Meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah© Xander Heinl/photothek.net

Speaking in Ramallah, Maas emphasised, “I want to encourage people not to burn any bridges, even when circumstances are difficult.” He said that it was also necessary to find ways and formats at an international level to pursue the peace process with the required urgency.

The focus was also on security in the region. Germany remains committed to the nuclear agreement with Iran, with the aim of preventing an arms race in the Middle East.

During his trip, Maas met President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and held talks with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, in Ramallah. 

A special anniversary – 70 years of the State of Israel 

Foreign Minister Maas with Israeli President Rivlin
Foreign Minister Maas with Israeli President Rivlin© Xander Heinl/photothek.net

Heiko Maas’ first official visit as Foreign Minister is taking place at a special time, as Israel is celebrating the seventieth anniversary of its foundation this year. “This anniversary is also an important date for us in Germany in particular,” Maas said. “We owe the friendship we enjoy today with Israel to the great men and women who nurtured it. And above all, this friendship is a great gift.”

Germany will support a large number of events in Israel and Germany to mark the anniversary. The focus will be on art, culture, science and the creative sector, as well as on involving civil Society.


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