President Shimon Peres on Tuesday afternoon 25 Adar II 5774, in a special ceremony at the President’s Residence, conferred the Presidential Medal of Distinction on German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The medal is the highest civilian award in Israel and was bestowed upon Dr. Merkel for her unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and the fight against anti-Semitism and racism in particular through education.
President Peres began by thanking Chancellor Merkel for her support for Israel and said, “We are here today to express the deep appreciation of my people and my nation towards you, to your country and for your brave position by Israel’s side. Both when we are under threat and when we are on the path to peace, within the European Union, the United Nations and the global arena. Your commitment to Israel’s security and to the cause of peace is set in stone. You oversaw the expansion of our economic ties, the deepening of scientific collaboration and never hesitated to provide us with the tools necessary for our defense. As you said, ‘Germany’s support for Israel’s security is part of our national ethos, our raison d’être.’ You stood against the Iranian threat and stressed, ‘A nuclear bomb in the hands of an Iranian president who denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel and denies Israel the right to exist, is not acceptable! For me, Israel’s security will never be open to negotiation.’ Your words are unhesitant and have the clarity of honesty.”
President Peres addressed the negotiations with the PA (Palestinian Authority) in his speech, “You believe, as we do, that there is no alternative to peace and that it must not fail. Secretary of State Kerry is managing the negotiations which have restarted between us and the Palestinians. The process must not cease and your support for it carries great significance. The negotiations are at a critical junction. We must support the talks in every way we can. To encourage the talks the European Union suggested an interesting idea – with the completion of the negotiations a special status will be offered to Israel and the Palestinians within the European Union. This idea could well contribute to the cause of peace. I believe that peace is possible. The entire region, and no nation within it, has a better alternative than peace. Bloodshed is not an alternative, it is a disaster.”
After the ceremony President Peres and Chancellor Merkel held a diplomatic working meeting with their senior staff during which they discussed the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the Iranian nuclear threat and relations between Israel and Germany.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)