German Chancellor Merkel to receive honorary doctorate during Israel visit

University of Haifa says award, to be given next week in Jerusalem, ‘recognizes her unwavering contribution to the strong friendship’ between the two countries

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving in Jerusalem on February 24, 2014. (Sebastian Scheiner/AFP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving in Jerusalem on February 24, 2014. (Sebastian Scheiner/AFP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will receive an honorary doctorate from an Israeli university during her visit to the Jewish state next week, honoring her “groundbreaking leadership,” opposition to anti-Semitism and strengthening of scientific collaborations between Israel and Germany.

Germany’s leader will visit Israel on October 3-4, her first visit in more than four years, amid growing US-Europe tension over Iran.

Merkel, who has a PhD in physics from the University of Leipzig, will receive the honorary doctorate of philosophy from the University of Haifa during a ceremony in Jerusalem on October 4, the university said Wednesday in a statement.

“Throughout her life, Dr. Merkel has demonstrated exemplary standards of excellence, wisdom and humanity,” the university’s president, Prof. Ron Robin, said in a statement. “It is a great privilege to confer upon her an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Haifa, and I am enormously proud and excited by the occasion.”

At the ceremony at the Israel Museum, Merkel will engage in an open dialogue with Robin and meet University of Haifa students, including German students studying abroad, who will have the opportunity to ask her questions. The conversation will be focused mainly on the role of academia in strengthening democratic values.

The university also hailed the 64-year-old for “inspiring policy-makers and leaders of the free world” and called her a “courageous trailblazer who has broken through walls and glass ceilings.”

The University of Haifa campus. (Courtesy)

“She has stood firmly against racism and anti-Semitism and has worked tirelessly to forge connections between Jews and gentiles in Germany and throughout Europe,” it said, adding the award “recognizes her unwavering contribution to the strong friendship and profound relations between The Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Israel.”

Merkel’s Germany is leading efforts to rescue the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for a rollback of its nuclear program, and which has long been denounced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has also allied closely with the administration of US President Donald Trump, who left the agreement in tatters by withdrawing the US earlier this year.

Germany has also criticized the Netanyahu government’s policies toward the Palestinians.

At the same time, Germany remains a key Israeli ally, the supplier of Israel’s nuclear-capable naval submarines and the Jewish state’s largest European trading partner.

Merkel’s visit comes as part of a broader government-to-government summit that will bring several German cabinet ministers to Israel for meetings with their counterparts. It follows a visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Berlin in June.

Merkel herself last visited Israel in February 2014.

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