Israel: Merkel allowed to give Knesset speech in German

Despite opposition from Israeli politicians, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be allowed to address the Israeli parliament in German.

The Knesset House Committee voted 7-2 on Tuesday to approve an exception for Merkel, who will visit Israel March 16-18. According to Knesset statutes, only presidents, kings and heads of state are allowed to address parliament. Because Merkel is chancellor, and Germany also has a president who is head of state, the decision was sent to the committee for the vote, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

One of the right-wing parliamentarians who voted against the decision, NRP National Union party member Arye Eldad sent a letter to Parliament President Dalia Itzik beforehand in an attempt to block Merkel’s address.

On Tuesday he spoke against the parliament’s decision. “I can’t stand to hear German in the Knesset,” he said. “My father and mother were murdered in that language.”

The other parliamentarian who voted against the address, Uri Ariel, compared Germany to the Amaleks, biblical enemies of the Jews.

Haaretz reported that a parliamentarian and member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s party, Kadima, warned that denying Merkel the right to speak before the Knesset would cause a diplomatic crisis. David Tal said Europe has had enough of Israel and what is happening in the country. “Israel should embrace an alliance with Germany,” he said.

Former German President Johannes Rau was the first German official to have the honour of addressing the Knesset in 2000. Five years later German President Horst Köhler also addressed the parliament in German. Both occasions stirred controversy in Israel.