Germany’s new president said he shares Israel’s concerns about the Iranian nuclear program and the potential radicalization of the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring.
“I understand Israel’s worries, as it is currently still unclear whether the revolts in the Arab countries can last and which direction they may take,” Joachim Gauck said Tuesday morning during a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. “My position is clear: the changes in Egypt and the entire region need to lead to more democracy and to the guarding of human rights. Moreover, they need to be combined with a responsible foreign policy, especially toward Israel. I will stand up for that.”
Gauck, who arrived Monday evening for a four-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority merely two months after he took office, also said he was “very worried” about the Iranian nuclear program, saying that it did not only pose a threat to Israel but to the entire region as well as Europe.
The 72-year-old former Evangelical pastor also recalled his country’s dark past and said he was happy that both countries achieved a “historical a reconciliation not thought possible” that was born out of Israel’s readiness to trust Germany. “This trust lets us draw lessons for our history and take responsibility for the past and the creation of present and future.”
‘We will never forget the Holocaust. But we will also not forget that it is upon us to build a different future’
Today, Israel is “one of Germany’s most important partners and friends,” said Gauck. “Germany and Israel are more connected to each other than ever before — through common values and common interests.” Gauck reiterated Germany’s stance to support a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Peres also hailed the friendship between the two nations that developed after the Holocaust. “We will never forget the Holocaust. But we will also not forget that it is upon us to build a different future.”
Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust and are threatening to commit a new Holocaust, he added. “There is no room for indifference or disregard. Indifference to tragedy is the greatest tragedy.”
The recent massacres in Syria were “crimes against humanity,” President Shimon Peres charged. “Who can remain dry-eyed at the sight of a row of small coffins, including children who were shot to death by order of their president?”
After Peres received Gauck with military honors in his residence, he accompanied him to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Later on Tuesday, he was scheduled to have lunch with Israeli writer David Grossman and meet with members of Israel’s 1972 Munich Olympics delegation and their families.
Gauck, who belongs to no political party but became popular in Germany for his role as political dissident in Communist East Germany, will meet with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich later on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On the last day of his visit, Gauck will visit a girls school at Kfar Burin, south of Nablus, and meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah.