AJC Hails German Chancellor Merkel's Historic Visit to Israel

Feb 24, 2014, 14:26 ET from American Jewish Committee

BERLIN , Feb. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC salutes the historic visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Israel. She arrives today with a large delegation that includes her entire Cabinet.

"Germany is a vitally important ally and partner of Israel," said AJC Berlin director Deidre Berger.

Chancellor Merkel reaffirmed over the weekend that Israel's security is an intrinsic part of Germany's raison d'etre. The 15-member ministerial group travelling with her is the largest government delegation to date to participate in the annual German-Israel government consultations, which the Chancellor instituted in 2008 to intensify bilateral relations.

The visit is expected to produce a series of bilateral agreements to deepen further German-Israeli technical, academic, military, and political cooperation. Israel is Germany's largest trading partner within the 28-member European Union.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in an op-ed in the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, stated that "Israel does not stand alone. Germany and Europe are important partners that act decisively for Israel's legitimization and its right of existence."

And, in a rare interview on German television, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the visit a "sign of friendship." In addition to face-to-face meetings between Merkel and Netanyahu, the Israeli and German Cabinets will hold a joint business meeting.

"This visit is a golden opportunity to underline Germany's long-standing and robust support for Israel and strengthen Germany's increasing role in Mideast affairs," said Berger. "Germany and Israel have strong common interests and values. Now more than ever, this should be expressed in projects and agreements that can make a marked difference in the region."

During the visit, Israeli President Shimon Peres will award Chancellor Merkel with the "Presidential Medal of Distinction," Israel's highest honor for civilians.

The meetings will also address planning for next year's 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. Marking this anniversary is a high priority for AJC Berlin, which was established in 1998 as the first such office in Germany.

In January 2011, at a ceremony in Berlin, AJC presented Merkel with AJC's "Light unto the Nations Award" for her abiding friendship for the Jewish people and Israel. The Chancellor was also a keynote speaker at AJC's 100th anniversary dinner in Washington in 2006.

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SOURCE American Jewish Committee