Herzog departs for Germany, where he’ll mark 50 years to Munich Massacre

President will also meet German leaders to discuss impending Iran deal; says, ‘Every visit to Germany carries with it tremendous personal weight’

President Isaac Herzog departs for a state visit to Germany, September 4, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog departs for a state visit to Germany, September 4, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog departed Sunday for a three-day visit to Germany, where he will commemorate, along with the victims’ families, the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Munich Massacre, which saw 11 Israeli athletes killed at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.

During the visit, Herzog will meet with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier as well as Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

He is slated to address the Bundestag, the German parliament, where he will reveal his “diplomatic thoughts on the major issues on the agenda, including the Iranian nuclear program,” according to a statement from the President’s Office.

“I shall participate in the memorial there together with the families of the murdered athletes, Germany’s top leadership, and officials from the Olympic Committee of Israel. I shall represent the People of Israel and the State of Israel,” Herzog said.

He continued, “Every visit to Germany carries with it tremendous personal weight. We shall discuss the past and the future.”

In September 1972, members of the Black September terrorist organization broke into the Olympic village and took the Israeli team hostage, killing two and capturing a further nine. At the end of a botched rescue attempt, 11 Israeli athletes and officials were dead, as well as a West German police officer.

A memorial plaque for the eleven athletes from Israel and one German police officer were killed in a terrorist attack during the Olympic Games 1972, stands at the former accommodation of the Israeli team in the Olympic village in Munich, Germany, August 27, 2022. (AP/Matthias Schrader)

In the aftermath of the attack, a public dispute ensued between Germany and the victims’ families over compensation payments, culminating in a $28 million deal reached last week. That figure includes payments made to the families immediately after the attack.

As a result of the compensation agreement, the families agreed to join Herzog at the official commemoration ceremony, which they had previously refused to attend.

Steinmeier’s office has not said whether the German president will make a formal apology during the ceremony at Fuerstenfeldbruck air base, west of Munich, where the hostage-taking reached its violent end.

Herzog is also scheduled to visit the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where it is estimated that more than 50,000 Jews lost their lives. Herzog’s father — future Israeli president Chaim Herzog — was among the British forces that liberated the camp in 1945.

The visit comes a month after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sparked outrage during an official visit to Germany, telling a Berlin press conference that the Palestinians had suffered “50 holocausts.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hold a joint press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on August 16, 2022. (JENS SCHLUETER/AFP)

The incident sent German officials into a scramble to distance themselves from the comments, with Chancellor Sholz calling Prime Minister Yair Lapid to apologize.

Lapid is also slated to visit Germany next week, where it is expected he will press the Germans on the Iranian nuclear issue, as the US inches closer to signing an agreement.

Israel reportedly believes the US and Iran are still within weeks of reviving a nuclear deal, despite Washington saying Tehran’s latest response in negotiations was “not constructive.”

White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson told The Times of Israel, “Some gaps have closed in recent weeks but others remain.”

In preparation for a deal, Israel has been pressuring the US to formulate a military plan of action to be implemented if Iran is found to be continuing its nuclear weapons program.

US President Joe Biden committed to keeping Israel in the loop, promising no surprises in any forthcoming nuclear deal.

Germany is supportive of a nuclear deal, which it says “cannot be postponed any longer.”

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