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New German Regime Pledges to Keep Close Ties with Israel

Leading members of Germany’s new government told leading American Jewish leaders last week they plan to maintain Germany’s close relationship with Israel.

“There is a special responsibility of the German democracy toward Israel,” Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher told a delegation from the American Jewish Committee. Fisher called Germany’s special relationship with Israel one of “the roots of our foreign policy, and there will be no change.”

The meeting was the first official visit from a major American Jewish organization to Bonn since the new center-left government, led by Social Democratic Party Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, took over in Germany two months ago.

AJCommittee Executive Director David Harris said German leaders told the delegation they support Israel’s acceptance into the Western European regional bloc of the United Nations, which would enable it to gain full membership privileges in the U.N. — including the possibility of serving on the Security Council.

The group pressed the Bonn government to push for more integration of Israel in European affairs. Germany will assume the rotating six-month European Union presidency in January.

Other topics touched on in discussions with German officials included U.S.- German relations, the Middle East peace process and international terrorism. Harris said the issue of the proliferation of weapons emanating from the former Soviet Union was a central issue during talks the delegation held with Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping.

Scharping also told the delegation that his ministry would continue to monitor right-wing extremism in the German army. Several incidents have been publicized during the past two years, ranging from the discovery of right-wing propaganda on an army base to a lecture given to reserve officers by a man classified by intelligence sources as a right-wing extremist.

The AJCommittee visit to Bonn coincided with heated discussions in Germany on Holocaust remembrance, a planned Holocaust memorial and compensation for former World War II slave laborers. Harris said government officials stated their commitment to commemorating the Holocaust and compensating those who suffered during the Nazi era.

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