BERLIN (JTA) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel was honored in Berlin by the American Jewish Committee for her support for the Jewish people and Israel.
Thursday’s presentation of the Light Unto the Nations Award to Merkel by AJC Executive Director David Harris was followed by a private, off-the-record meeting in the Chancellery. On the agenda were Israel-German relations, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and issues of pluralism and integration in Germany, Harris told JTA.
"We were very satisfied by our discussion with the chancellor," Harris said in a telephone interview. "We heard things that were important for us to hear, and we continue very much to value her friendship and her commitment and shared concern."
Harris and a 10-member delegation of AJC leaders, accompanied by Deidre Berger, director of the organization’s 13-year-old Berlin office, held several high-level meetings with government leaders here, including President Christian Wulff, Economics Minister Rainer Bruderle, Defense Minister Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg, and former foreign ministers Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Joschka Fischer.
The delegation is to meet Friday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris.
In May 2006, Merkel joined with President Bush and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in addressing AJC’s Centennial Gala in Washington, D.C.
Though critical of Israel’s settlement policy, and under pressure from legislators who increasingly blame Israel for the limping peace process, Merkel is seen as a strong supporter of Israel and the two-state solution.
In 2008, Merkel introduced the first cabinet exchange between the two countries. The third round is to take place this year.
Previous Light Unto the Nations awardees include President Clinton, Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez.