Israel's right to exist is a prime German interest, say Berlin MPs

Berlin - Marking the 60th anniversary of Israel's foundation, German parliamentarians said Thursday the Jewish state's right to exist had the same status as a German national interest.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is set to leave Berlin Saturday for a Mideast tour, told the Bundestag parliament Berlin was also committed to obtaining a permanent peace settlement in the Middle East.

He warned that the "two-state" solution required painful compromises from Palestinians and Israelis. He said both sides needed resoluteness and far-sightedness. Germany and the European Union could help with the background conditions.

Steinmeier said he saw a little blue in the "Middle East sky" with Lebanon's domestic political crisis over, and perhaps the conditions were now in place for reconstruction in Lebanon. He welcomed the Turkish-mediated indirect talks between Israel and Syria.

German-Israeli relations would always be a special case, he added. The Holocaust, with the unfathomable suffering inflicted by Germans on German and other European Jews, was fixed in German history.

Israel was founded in May 1948. It celebrated the anniversary earlier this month.

Gert Weisskirchen, a Social Democratic legislator, said in the final speech of the special Bundestag debate that Israel must be preserved as a refuge for Jews who were persecuted anywhere in the world.

"When they are threatened, they need to have this state," he said.

Social Democratic caucus leader Peter Struck said Israel's right to exist was a part of the Federal German Republic's objectives.

Volker Kauder, the caucus leader of the Christian Democrats, said the bond with Israel was also based on a shared commitment to the Judaeo-Christian tradition and the values that ally democracies. (dpa)