Merkel’s Israel Trip Off to a Rocky Start
Posted on Mar 12, 2008
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to speak before the Israeli Knesset to underscore her country’s strong ties with Israel, but at least one aspect of her visit is already causing controversy. Merkel will address the Israeli parliament in German.
It won’t be the first time a German official has addressed the Israeli government using what one lawmaker called “the last language my grandmother and grandfather heard before they were murdered.”
A spokesman for the speaker of the Knesset downplayed the controversy: “She is a very important European and world leader, and a great friend of Israel, and she asked to speak in German.”
AP via Google:
Knesset bylaws allow only heads of state to address the parliament. A parliamentary committee on Tuesday gave Merkel special dispensation to address lawmakers, said Ilan Ostfeld, a spokesman for Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik. At Merkel’s request, she will speak in her native language.
“She is a very important European and world leader, and a great friend of Israel, and she asked to speak in German,” Ostfeld said.
The chancellor’s spokesman, Ulrich Wilhelm, told reporters in Berlin that Merkel “has on various occasions expressed understanding for the particular sensitivity that there is in Israel on this question.”
However, she “also asks for understanding that she, as a representative of the German government and the German chancellor, speaks in her mother tongue, in German,” Wilhelm said.