Lapid set for official state visit to Germany next month

PM’s planned trip comes after Abbas stirred controversy in Berlin with ‘holocausts’ comment; Iran nuclear deal will likely be high on the agenda

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Then-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Jerusalem, March 2, 2022. (GPO)
Then-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Jerusalem, March 2, 2022. (GPO)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid will be heading to Germany for an official state visit next month, his office announced on Tuesday.

Lapid is slated to depart for Berlin on the afternoon of September 11, stay in the capital overnight, and meet with German officials on September 12 before returning to Israel.

The Prime Minister’s Office provided scant details about the trip, and would not confirm which officials Lapid will be meeting during his visit. Nevertheless, he is likely to meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

Scholz most recently visited Israel in March, when Naftali Bennett was still prime minister, and met with Lapid, who was then foreign minister. During that trip, Scholz stressed that a new nuclear agreement with Iran “cannot be postponed any longer.”

The issue of the Iran nuclear deal will likely be high on the agenda, as Germany is one of the key world powers renegotiating a return to the 2015 agreement. Israel has repeatedly stressed to its EU allies the importance of refusing any further concessions to the Iranians.

Last week, the US submitted its response to Iranian proposals on the latest EU draft of the deal, bringing the sides closer than ever to inking an agreement. However, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has since warned that Tehran will not sign a deal that keeps open an International Atomic Energy Agency probe at its undeclared nuclear sites.

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)

Lapid’s trip to Germany will come less than a month after a visit there by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who sparked a wave of outrage in Israel and around the world with comments accusing Israel of “50 holocausts.”

Abbas made the comments during a press conference alongside Scholz in Berlin, after he was asked whether he would apologize for the Munich massacre, which was carried out by a group then affiliated with his Fatah party.

“If we want to go over the past, go ahead,” Abbas told the reporters in Arabic. “I have 50 slaughters that Israel committed in 50 Palestinian villages… 50 massacres, 50 slaughters, 50 holocausts,” he said, pronouncing the final word in English.

Scholz visibly grimaced at Abbas’s comments, but did not say anything as the press conference wrapped up. He later vocally condemned Abbas’s statement, and also spoke about it with Lapid several days later.

Lapid denounced the PA leader for the comments, stating that “Mahmoud Abbas accusing Israel of having committed ’50 holocausts’ while standing on German soil is not only a moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie.”

Speaking to Lapid via phone that week, Scholz repeated his condemnation of the remarks, saying that “keeping alive the memory of the civilizational rupture of the Shoah is an everlasting responsibility of this and every German government.”

Lapid is also slated to arrive in Germany about a week after a ceremony in Munich marking 50 years since the 1972 Olympic massacre. The memorial has been shrouded in controversy since the families of the 11 Israeli victims vowed to boycott the official German ceremony over an ongoing compensation dispute.

According to a Tuesday report, the family members are close to accepting a deal from the German government for an additional 11 million euros in compensation. If the deal is agreed to soon, the family members are expected to attend the ceremony next week, along with President Isaac Herzog.

Not long after his Germany trip, Lapid is expected to travel to New York to speak at the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly. He is reportedly seeking to meet with US President Joe Biden during that visit, also to discuss the looming Iran deal.

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