Israeli President Moshe Katzav begins Berlin visit

30th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

30 May 2005, BERLIN - Israel and Germany are to create a fund to promote improved relations, German President Horst Koehler said on Monday as he and Israel's President Moshe Katzav took stock of a relationship where the Holocaust has never been more than a thought away.

30 May 2005

BERLIN - Israel and Germany are to create a fund to promote improved relations, German President Horst Koehler said on Monday as he and Israel's President Moshe Katzav took stock of a relationship where the Holocaust has never been more than a thought away.

Katzav was in Berlin at the start of a three-day state visit to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. He was to address the German parliament on Tuesday.

The joint 'fund for the future' will encourage better relations, Koehler said. A certain amount would additionally be appropriated to assist exchanges of scientists, artists and young people.

The two countries have a special relationship where Germany has sought to make amends for Nazi genocide.

At a news conference, the two presidents said the Holocaust must never be forgotten. Katsav said the future relationship would continue to be shaped by the Holocaust, adding that the trauma of the past must be the fundament for building a better future.

Asked if German criticism of Israel was legitimate, Katsav replied that constructive criticism was only possible if there was an understanding of regional realities.

"But the German politicians, the German government, they have the right to criticise government policies," said Katsav.

He praised the resolve of German politicians to fight anti-Semitism but said he saw signs that gave cause for concern, including polls suggesting 50 percent of Germans under the age of 24 did not know the meaning of Shoah (Holocaust).

Katzav said in an interview published on Monday just before his arrival that the Holocaust could not be forgiven.

"In human terms, forgiveness in the name of the murdered is impermissible. In practical terms, it is impossible, given the inconceivableness of this crime," he said in remarks to the Berlin-based daily newspaper Die Welt.

"It is more important how we, coming from this past, proceed into a future that reaches far into the generations to come.

"We can only influence the next generation. The Holocaust was only 60 years ago and happened in one of the most modern nations, right in Europe. So our duty is to consider what could happen in another 60 years, even if our influence on it is limited."

Asked if he would initiate as president a sort of 'examination of conscience' in Israel over its relationship with the occupied territories since 1967, he replied, "That will happen, I am sure.

"It is already perceptible that Israel has moved to the left in recent decades regarding these areas and its readiness to make concessions. But as in relations with Germany, the feelings of the first generation after 1967 were quite strong.

"The status of the West Bank was unsettled. The Jordanians had occupied it since 1948. We have historic rights there. And we are not being asked to hand it back to Jordan but to create a Palestinian state, which even the Arab states could not resolve to do earlier.

"That is still important today. However, 12 years ago the Oslo principles came along, and now there is the road map peace plan where Israel for the first time voluntarily supports the creation of a Palestinian state. The closure of the (Jewish) settlements is the next step."

The highlight of the Israeli leader's visit to Germany will be his speech to the German parliament, an honour recalling the address to the German parliament by Israeli President Ezer Weizman in 1996. Koehler addressed the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, this February.

Katzav was to meet later on Monday with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer as well as opposition leader Angela Merkel.

DPA

Subject: German news

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