German Chancellor Scholz visits Israel amid war in Ukraine

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz paid his first visit to Israel since taking office on Wednesday, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and international efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.

Scholz visited Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, where he placed an offering and left a message in the visitors’ book acknowledging Germany’s historical responsibility to the Jewish state.

“The mass murder of Jews was instigated by Germany,” he wrote. “It was planned and carried out by Germans. Consequently, every German government bears the permanent responsibility for the security of the State of Israel and the protection of Jewish life.”

Receiving Scholz, Bennett declared that “the Shoah, the methodical destruction of Jews, is a wound that is at the base of relations between Germany and Israel. From this wound we have built strong and important relations.”

The two rulers, recently in office after their long-serving predecessors, met at a time when changing world events put their leadership to the test.

But their responses to the crisis in Ukraine have been different.

Scholz’s governing coalition reversed a ban on sending weapons to conflict zones and halted the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany, while committing $113 billion to modernizing the German military and increasing its contributions to NATO.

Israel, on the other hand, took a more conservative position, given its close relations with Kiev and Moscow.

Bennett has not heeded Ukraine’s request for arms, according to the Israeli press, instead offering 100 tons of non-military aid, such as water purification kits and blankets.

Scholz’s visit to Israel also coincides with a possible deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

The original 2015 deal collapsed when former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew, with Israeli support.

The United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia are currently negotiating in Vienna to rescue the agreement, while the United States participates indirectly.

Bennett has said he is “deeply concerned” with that deal.

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