Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel appreciates Germany’s long-lasting friendship and commitment to Israel.
Bennett was speaking at the start of his meeting with outgoing German chancellor Angela Merkel in Yerushalayim on Sunday.
“The bilateral relations during your tenure at chancellor became stronger than ever and transformed into a true friendship, thanks to your leadership,” Bennett told Merkel.
“We very much appreciate your ongoing friendship and commitment to the people of Israel. The relationship between Germany and Israel has been strong, but in your term, it has never been stronger; it has become more than just an alliance. It has become a true friendship thanks to your leadership. We’re looking forward to strengthening it even more in business relations, science, education, health and of course, in security.
“Sometimes a leader makes a profound difference and I think your leadership paved the foundation for an ongoing commitment of Germany to Israel’s security and we very much appreciate it.
“We certainly remember history and we look optimistically to a brighter future,” Bennett said.
Merkel said: “I consider it a great pleasure and great honor to be able to visit Israel once again at the end of my term in office, and to get to know the new Israeli prime minister.
“During my term in office I have tried together with all members of my government to work hard to make the relationship between both our countries and peoples even stronger and broader, for example through the inter-governmental consultations.
“It is not only matters that affect our past that play a part, but also our look to a common future.
“However, it is fair to say that I continue to consider it a stroke of good fortune given to us by history that after the crimes against humanity of the Shoah, it has been possible to reset and to reestablish relations between Germany and Israel to the extent that we have done. I want to use this opportunity to emphasize that the topic of Israel’s security will always be of central importance and a central topic of every German government.
“I look forward to the good exchanges and talks we’re going to have and I very much look forward to getting to know the members of this very diverse cabinet of yours. Compared with your government, a German coalition government seems a very simple matter.”
The German Chancellor arrived late Saturday night for her eighth and final visit after more than 16 years in office with unwavering support for Israel.
Germany is Israel’s largest trading partner in Europe and the German government has provided solid support to Israel during wars and diplomatic crises.
Merkel’s last visit to Israel was described as a working visit and will include talks on ongoing bilateral issues including Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Her two-day trip will include a meeting with Bennett, who will then accompany the outgoing chancellor to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, and to meetings with Israeli high-tech industry leaders.
In addition to meeting the prime minister, Merkel is scheduled for meet with President Yitzchak Herzog and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
The German leader will also receive an honorary doctorate from Haifa’s Technion Institute and participate in a panel discussion at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
Merkel’s final visit to Israel was originally scheduled for August but was postponed due to the crisis over the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, as well as Germany’s own efforts to evacuate from Kabul its own nationals and Afghans who helped its forces during a nearly two-decade deployment in the country.