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By Robert Berger
Jerusalem
16 March 2008

The leader of Germany and several members of her cabinet are in Israel on a highly symbolic visit that comes against the background of their nation's Nazi past. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel rolled out the red carpet.

Germany's Chanceller Angela Merkel (l) and Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at Tel Aviv Airport, 16 Mar 2008
Germany's Chanceller Angela Merkel (l) and Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at Tel Aviv Airport, 16 Mar 2008
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Israel to express her country's strong support for the Jewish state and to confront the Holocaust.

Speaking at the airport, she acknowledged Germany's "historical responsibility" to Israel, a reference to the killing of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War II.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was at her side.

He praised Merkel for her "unflinching support" for Israel and described her as a "strategic ally."

During the three-day visit, she and seven members of her cabinet will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Merkel also pledged to work for Mideast peace, calling for a two-state solution: one for the Jews and the other for the Palestinians. However, she will not be going to the Palestinian territories because the visit is geared specifically toward Israel's 60th anniversary.

Merkel will address the Israeli parliament on Tuesday, reflecting the warm ties that have developed between the two countries over the past 60 years. But at least one Israeli parliamentarian will boycott the speech, saying he cannot bear to hear the German language in that setting.

Israeli President Shimon Peres disagrees.

"We cannot forget the Holocaust," Peres said. "But we need to remember that there is a new generation in Germany."

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