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Boycott threat as German president readies to address Israeli parliament (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/02/05 7:11 AM ET)Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1515&ncid=1515&e=5&u=/afp/20050202/wl_mideast_afp/germanyisrael_050202121156 AFP} Agence France Presse AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
JERUSALEM (AFP) - German President Horst Koehler was to address the Israeli parliament in celebration of 40 years of diplomatic ties despite the threat of a boycott by MPs at the prospect of German being spoken on the floor of the Knesset.

Koehler, on the second day of a four-day visit, was expected to underline Germany´s "particular moral responsibility" toward Israel during his speech which his office said would be made in his native tongue.

While Germany has become one of Israel´s strongest allies since they forged ties, the depth of feeling over Koehler´s speech has served to underline the complex nature of the relationship 60 years on from the end of the Nazi regime.

The deputy speaker of the chamber, Hemi Doron, was one of the deputies who threatened a boycott, saying it "would be impossible for me to listen to this language from within the walls of the parliament of the Jewish people".

Doron´s grandfather was one of at least six million Jews killed during the Nazi era.

Health Minister Danny Naveh was also likely to stay away from the chamber, given what he has called the "inappropriate" use of German.

The speaker of parliament, Reuven Rivlin, said Wednesday that both he and Koehler understood the sensitivity of the issue as he urged Germany not to be too hasty in banishing memories of its past.

"This country which is now strong and sure of itself must not be too quick to shake off the shadows of its past," Rivlin said. "Do not think that we have forgotten or that the world has forgotten."

The first day of Koehler´s state visit saw him visit Jerusalem´s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Tuesday as well as hold talks with his Israeli counterpart Moshe Katsav and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The sensitivity of Koehler´s visit is heightened by its timing, just days after the anniversary at the Auschwitz death camp, where more than 1.1 million people died, most of them Jews from countries in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Koehler told his hosts on Tuesday that Germany would never stint in its fight against anti-Semitism as Sharon expressed fears about what Israel regards as a growth of anti-Jewish feeling in Europe.

"We understand the new political forces but Europe must invest more in the struggle against anti-Semitism," said Sharon.

Koehler said: "The relationship between our two countries will always be something special ... The Germans will always have a special responsibility for Israel and its people." (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 02/02/05)

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