Netanyahu to attend funeral of former German chancellor Kohl
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Netanyahu to attend funeral of former German chancellor Kohl

PM to join world leaders at Saturday’s Strasbourg service for one of ‘Israel’s greatest friends’

A photograph of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and a white rose are seen next to a book of condolences for Kohl at the conservative Christian Democratic Union's regional party congress in Berlin on June 17, 2017. (Maurizio Gambarini/DPA/AFP)
A photograph of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and a white rose are seen next to a book of condolences for Kohl at the conservative Christian Democratic Union's regional party congress in Berlin on June 17, 2017. (Maurizio Gambarini/DPA/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will leave on Friday to attend the funeral of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, who passed away on June 16, the Prime Minister’s Office announced.

The funeral will take place in the French city of Strasbourg on Saturday, and Netanyahu will join German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and former US president Bill Clinton at the ceremony.

Kohl’s body will then be taken to the Spire cemetery in Germany for burial.

After Kohl’s death, Netanyahu praised the former chancellor, calling him one of Israel’s greatest friends.

“I express deep sorrow on the passing of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl,” he said. “Among the State of Israel’s greatest friends, he was completely dedicated to its security. Kohl was the leader who united Germany with a determined and steady hand. His admiration for Israel and Zionism found expression in my many meetings with him and in his resolute stand in favor of Israel, which he constantly presented in Europe and in international forums. I send condolences to the Kohl family and to the German people.”

Netanyahu will return to Israel on Sunday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) leaves the Saint Hedwig Cathedral after attending a memorial service for late former chancellor Helmut Kohl on June 27, 2017 at the Hedwig Cathedral in Berlin. (AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) leaves the Saint Hedwig Cathedral after attending a memorial service for late former chancellor Helmut Kohl on June 27, 2017 at the Hedwig Cathedral in Berlin. (AFP/John MacDougall)

The funeral plans for Germany’s longest serving post-war leader, in office from 1982-98, were criticized by members of Kohl’s family.

Walter Kohl, the elder son of the former chancellor called the plans for his father’s funeral “unworthy” of a man considered the father of German reunification, further inflaming a family feud with his stepmother.

“I find the latest developments not worthy of my father, nor of Germany and Europe,” said Walter Kohl, 53, who with his brother Peter are from Kohl’s first marriage.

In an interview on the weekly Die Zeit website, Walter Kohl criticized the lack of national funeral services, which were refused by his stepmother Maike Kohl-Richter.

The Cathedral in Speyer, southwestern Germany is pictured on June 27, 2017 where the former chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) is to be buried. (AFP PHOTO / Daniel ROLAND)
The Cathedral in Speyer, southwestern Germany is pictured on June 27, 2017 where the former chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) is to be buried. (AFP/Daniel Roland)

He also complained about the choice to bury his father in a cemetery in Speyer in southwest Germany and not the family tomb in the town of Ludwigshafen, where Kohl died on June 16 aged 87.

Those decisions were made by Kohl-Richter, 34 years her husband’s junior.

Kohl’s body will then be taken to the Spire cemetery and his son says he will not take part in the burial.

Walter Kohl had wanted his father’s casket to be taken to the German capital for “a national homage, an ecumenical requiem and a military farewell ceremony” near the Brandenburg Gate, where the German leader had witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Kohl is hailed as the father of Germany’s 1990 reunification, having convinced Western partners and Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev that Germany’s capitalist west and communist east must become one nation again.

Because of a long-running feud with Kohl-Richter, whom the German press say jealously guards her husband’s political legacy, Walter Kohl had not had contact with his father for many years and learned of his death on the radio.

In a best-selling book, he told of his sufferings in childhood living in the shadow of a political giant who was for him an absent father.

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