Israel welcomes German leader as ally against antisemitism

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s president warmly welcomed his German counterpart on Thursday, praising him as an ally in combatting antisemitism.

Reuven Rivlin said that Germany has been Israel’s “strong partner in the uncompromising fight against antisemitism” and has stood with Israel against “the forces of terror who seek to wipe us off the map.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also met with Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem. The prime minister’s office said in a statement that the two discussed Iran’s nuclear program, and that Bennett restated Israel’s determination to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Nazi Germany and its collaborators murdered 6 million European Jews in the Holocaust. Germany’s postwar leaders have repeatedly apologized for the Nazi atrocities and it has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in reparations to Jewish victims. Israel and Germany have developed close ties in recent years.

During a solemn visit to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Steinmeier said the “unspeakable suffering” caused in Germany’s name “fills us with pain and shame.”

“We will keep the memory of this alive for the sake of those who were murdered and for the sake of future generations,” he said.

Germany launched a new initiative with the United States last week to stem an alarming rise in antisemitism and Holocaust denial around the world.

The U.S.-Germany Holocaust Dialogue seeks to reverse the trend, which gained traction during the coronavirus pandemic amid a surge in political populism across Europe and the U.S. The dialogue creates a way to develop educational and messaging tools to teach youth and others about the crimes of the Nazis and their collaborators.

Later in the evening, Rivlin hosted Steinmeier for a dinner at his official residence, and the German president reiterated his country’s strong support for Israel.

“It does not matter how quickly the world changes, we will do our best to preserve the special friendship between Israel and Germany. Germany will continue to stand by Israel, and Israel will continue to be a wonderful friend to Germany,” Steinmeier told Rivlin, according to remarks released by the Israeli president’s office.

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