President Isaac Herzog issued an urgent call to German lawmakers and world leaders to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb, during an address to the country’s parliament on Tuesday at the tail end of a state visit.
In the speech, Herzog warned of “dark forces of hate, led by Iran” that threatened both Israel and stability in the Middle East and pressed the international community to stand on the “right side of history.”
“The possession of weapons of mass destruction by a UN member state that calls on a daily basis for the annihilation of another UN member state is simply inconceivable. Threats and endeavors to annihilate Israel are inconceivable,” he said.
Herzog added that a country that threatens Israel and denies the Holocaust was “ineligible for concessions, under any circumstances” and emphasized Israel’s right to defend itself.
Germany is one of the main world powers currently negotiating a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, with a deal seen as likely in the next few weeks despite persistent gaps between Tehran and Washington.
The president departed for Germany on Sunday and attended Monday’s 50th-anniversary commemoration event for the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, which he led alongside German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
His attendance at the official German ceremony was held up until the last minute amid an ongoing dispute over compensation to the surviving family members of the 11 Israeli victims of the 1972 attack. A deal between the families and the German government was finally reached last week, after the bereaved relatives had threatened to boycott the memorial ceremony.
The deal reached last Wednesday committed Berlin to provide 28 million euros ($28 million) in compensation. It also — for the first time — saw the German state acknowledge its “responsibility” for failings that led to the deaths of the Israelis.
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.
Herzog called the massacre a “nauseating murderous rampage” and thanked German leaders for their efforts in reaching the recent compensation agreement.
In his remarks to the Bundestag, he noted that the 2020 Abraham Accords — a regional peace accord — made Israel the initiator of growing ties and prosperity in the Middle East.
The agreement led to the establishment of full diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco, and launched a process of normalization with Sudan.
Herzog also asserted that Israel would never give up its desire for peace with the Palestinians but laid responsibility on them to “fight terror and stop it at once.”
Earlier this year, 19 Israelis were killed in a series of deadly terror attacks. Recently, there has been a marked rise in shooting attacks against soldiers in the West Bank.
During his address, Herzog pointed at Germany as the birthplace of several “fine names” in Jewish history, but lamented that the country was also the center of the “greatest atrocities ever inflicted on the Jewish People and humanity at large, throughout the ages.”
“From pogroms, riots, and brutal acts of slaughter, to the destruction of whole Jewish communities, recurring time and time again over the past one thousand years, and all the way to the darkest abyss in the annals of the family of nations: the Shoah. The Holocaust,” Herzog said.
He called for an “all-out war on antisemitism and racism.”
“We must find a way to walk together, in light of the values of peace, justice, mutual respect, tolerance, and partnership,” he urged.
The president spoke of his father, former president Chaim Herzog, who, as a British Army officer, liberated death camps from the “jaws of the Nazi beast” during World War II, and was the first Israeli head of state to visit Germany, opening his tour at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
“Thirty-five years have passed and I, about to conclude my state visit to Germany at Bergen-Belsen in a few hours, wish to repeat his remarks here, before you, representatives of the German people, from all factions, and I say: the Jewish People do not forget. Not just because of our debt to the generations of the past, but also because of our duties to the generations of the future.”
Herzog went on to praise post-war Germany as an “exemplary state” built in an “inspirational fashion,” citing German economic and cultural advancements and its impact on the world stage as a NATO member and European power.
Herzog also expressed confidence that Germany would “be a leading actor in the departure from the terrible tragedy afflicting the people of Ukraine.”