Meeting German president in Berlin, Herzog denounces ‘toothless’ Iran deal

Ahead of 50th anniversary memorial for Munich massacre, Steinmeier criticizes ‘shameful’ delay in compensation deal for relatives of Israeli athletes murdered in Olympic attack

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

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, welcomes President Isaac Herzog to Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, September 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, welcomes President Isaac Herzog to Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, September 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

President Isaac Herzog publicly stressed Israel’s opposition to the current Iran nuclear deal draft as he met on Sunday in Berlin with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

“Iran is openly striving for Israel’s destruction, and the international community must treat it severely, firmly and assertively,” said Herzog in comments alongside Steinmeier following their meeting. “Toothless and watered-down accords and sweeping benefits will not stop Iran.”

Herzog declared that Iran “has proven that it cannot be trusted,” and said Israel “will stand up and assertively and powerfully defend its citizens and Jewish communities all around the world. We expect our allies to stand firmly by our side at this hour.”

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.

Herzog departed for Germany Sunday morning for an official state visit timed to the 50th anniversary commemorations of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre. 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.

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.

Speaking alongside Herzog, Steinmeier admitted that it was “shameful” that it took five decades for Berlin to agree on an appropriate compensation package for the bereaved Israeli families.

“That it took 50 years to reach this agreement in the last days is indeed shameful,” said Steinmeier of the deal offering 28 million euros in compensation to victims’ families, and which also for the first time sees the German state acknowledging its “responsibility” for the carnage.

As part of an agreement with the families, Germany has agreed to acknowledge failures that authorities made at the time and to allow German and Israeli historians to review the events surrounding the attack. Relatives of the athletes accuse Germany of failing to secure the Olympic Village, refusing Israeli help and then botching the rescue operation.

Steinmeier said he would address some of the German failings during his speech at the ceremony on Monday. “I will speak about… some misjudgments, some misbehaviors and some errors made during the Games in Munich,” he said.

Herzog thanked Steinmeier for his “tireless moral commitment to historic justice” and his “personal involvement” in bringing the dispute over compensation to a close.

“I appreciate and respect your efforts to bring this painful episode to a place of healing, and I hope that from now on, we shall continue to remember, invoke, and most importantly reaffirm the lessons of this tragedy, including the importance of fighting terror, for future generations,” Herzog said.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, right, and his wife Elke Buedenbender, left, welcome President Isaac Herzog, second from right, and his wife Michal Herzog, second from left, for an official visit at Bellevue Palace Berlin, Germany, Sept. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Israel’s president noted that relations between Jerusalem and Berlin were “complicated, challenging, and at times painful, but they have created a deep connection and a powerful and important alliance.” Herzog noted that Prime Minister Yair Lapid is also slated to visit Germany next week, where he is expected to meet with Steinmeier, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other German officials.

Herzog is slated to also meet with Scholz during his visit, as well to address the Bundestag, the German parliament, and participate in the 50th anniversary memorial near Munich. He will wrap up his trip with a visit to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp alongside Steinmeier.

Herzog said Sunday that his visit to Germany — his first as president — “is a journey in search of roots, both personal and national,” noting that his late father, former president Chaim Herzog, “stepped on German soil as a proud Jewish officer, among the liberators of the death camps — at one of which, Bergen-Belsen, I shall conclude my state visit to Germany together with you, Mr. President, in two days’ time.”

Herzog’s trip 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 Sholz calling Lapid to offer his apologies.

Neither Herzog nor Steinmeier mentioned Abbas’s comments during their remarks on Sunday.

AFP and Ash Obel contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: