Olaf Scholz

Address to the Bundestag on Solidarity with Israel

delivered 12 October 2023, Bundestag, Berlin, Germany

Off--Site YouTube Video of Address in German


[AI translated from the Official Bundestag German language transcript]

Madam President, Mr. Ambassador Prosor! Dear colleagues! Ladies and Gentlemen!

On the morning of October 7, Israel woke up to a nightmare. On this Jewish holiday, Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip. Heavily armed Palestinian terrorists entered Israel at the same time and went murdering through towns and villages. More than 250 young men and women were executed by the terrorists at a music festival near the Gaza Strip.

The images are of inhuman horror. Dozens of Israelis, including the elderly and young children, were taken hostage in the Gaza Strip. Many of them were severely wounded in body and soul by their captors and humiliated in the most disgusting way. Well over 1,000 Israeli citizens have fallen victim to the terror so far. Thousands were injured, some seriously, and are fighting for their lives in the country's hospitals.

In a country with 9 million inhabitants, this means that almost everyone knows one of the victims. In these hours, the whole of Israel is mourning for the dead and fearing for the lost and displaced.

Dear friends in Israel, we mourn and we share your suffering.

Our hearts are heavy in the face of the great suffering that terror, hatred, and contempt for humanity have brought upon your country, upon Israel. We condemn the violence of the terrorists in all its severity. And we say in all clarity: Israel has the right, guaranteed by international law, to defend itself and its citizens against this barbaric attack.

Security in and for Israel must be restored, and therefore Israel must be able to defend itself. At this moment, there is only one place for Germany: the place at Israel's side. This is what we mean when we say that Israel's security is Germany's raison d'ętre.1

Our own history, our responsibility arising from the Holocaust, makes it an everlasting task for us to stand up for the existence and security of the State of Israel. This responsibility guides us.

Our connection with Israel and its people today is also very direct in other ways. Many Germans live in Israel, often citizens of both states. Many Israelis live here in Germany. Many of us have friends in the other country. That is also why many Germans were in Israel at the time of the attack. And so there are several Germans among the more than 100 Hamas hostages.

Dear Colleagues:

I am grateful that this House has reacted immediately to the terrorist attack. Five German parties already clearly expressed their solidarity with Israel in a joint statement on Sunday. And I welcome the cross-party motion that will be adopted today. These are important and necessary signs of our solidarity with Israel in the fight against terror.

I also emphasized this solidarity to Prime Minister Netanyahu when we spoke on the phone on Sunday. I have also coordinated closely with President Macron, President Biden, Prime Minister Sunak and Prime
Minister Meloni in recent days. We are in complete agreement: our countries will support Israel in defending itself and its people against such atrocities. And one thing is clear: our solidarity is not limited to words.

I have asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to remain in close contact and to inform us of any need for assistance. This applies, for example, to the care of the wounded, but we will also examine and grant other requests for assistance from Israel without delay.

Dear colleagues, our immediate concern today is for the children, women, and men who have been abducted to the Gaza Strip. Their fate deeply concerns us all. We fear that Hamas will continue to use them as human shields in the coming weeks. And we are working with all our might to ensure that all hostages are released -- in close coordination with Israel and, of course, with the confidentiality offered.

Our second major concern is the regional dimension of the conflict. While we do not yet have any airtight evidence that Iran is behind this cowardly attack by the Hamas, or offered concrete and operational support. But it is clear to all of us that without Iranian support over the last few years, Hamas would not have been able to carry out these unprecedented attacks on Israeli territory. The jubilant statements by the heads of the Iranian regime and some other government officials in the region are abhorrent. The leadership in Tehran is unashamedly showing its true colors and confirming its role in Gaza.

Our regional focus is also on the south of Lebanon. Like Hamas, Hezbollah maintains close ties with Iran. It, too, questions Israel's right to exist. Hezbollah must not intervene in the fighting. This would not only result in a justified and harsh Israeli reaction.

Lebanon, which is already destabilized by the unfortunate actions of Hezbollah, would be brought to the brink of the abyss. Above all, however, there would then be the threat of a devastating conflagration with possible repercussions as far away as North Africa and Yemen.

Many countries in the Middle East have already seen great suffering in recent decades. The atrocities of the so-called Islamic State, the IS, occurred less than a decade ago. Together with our partners, we are therefore using all our channels to prevent such an apocalyptic scenario. Together, we call on everyone in the region to refrain from further acts of hostility against Israel. Our message is clear: it would be an unforgivable mistake to attack Israel.

I am in close contact with the Egyptian head of state el-Sisi, who also has channels of communication to Gaza. Later today, I will speak with Turkish President Erdogan. I am also receiving the Emir of Qatar, whose country has an important mediating role, which it is also using these days. All three can play an important role in mediation and deescalation in the current situation.

To the critics of such contacts and the fact that we are speaking, I say: It would be irresponsible not to use all contacts that can help in this dramatic situation! We are doing this, by the way, in close coordination with Israel and for those who have been kidnapped by Hamas. Next week I will also receive the Jordanian king, who plays a special role in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Ladies and gentlemen, Hamas' attack on Israel also has consequences for our cooperation with the Palestinians. I ask myself: Where is the clear condemnation of terrorist violence by the autonomous authority and its President Mahmud Abbas?

I say: Your silence is shameful!

We are putting our entire development cooperation with the Palestinian Territories to the test. Our yardstick will be whether and how our projects support peace in the region and best serve Israel's security. As in the past, we will also discuss this with the Israeli government, which has had interest in many of our projects in the past. Until this review is completed, we will not be able to provide any new development cooperation funds.

Our humanitarian aid ensures more than half of the population, especially in the Gaza Strip, which lacks the most basic necessities for survival: food and basic health care. Hamas, on the other hand, offers them nothing but poverty and suffering. Hamas is not acting in the interests of the Palestinian people. And it is unfortunately foreseeable: The suffering and hardship of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip will only increase. Hamas is also responsible for this with its attack on Israel.

Dear Colleagues:

Even if it is difficult for us at the moment -- in view of the terrible reports and images from Israel and the Gaza Strip -- we must also look at the long-term perspective of the Middle East. There have certainly been changes for the better there in recent times: the normalization of relations between Israel; the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020; the end of the Qatar crisis in 2021; the resumption of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia in 2023; the last chance for a normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia as well. We must not allow terror to destroy these positive developments.

And that may be precisely the goal of terror. All the more reason for us to continue to use diplomatic means to find solutions to the numerous conflicts in the region. In doing so, we will not give up the goal that our Israeli friends and the Palestinians who want peace will one day be able to live side by side and without terror, even if that seems further away than ever today.

Dear Colleagues:

In the past few days thousands of citizens here in Berlin and in other German cities have literally shown their support for Israel. The blue and white flags with the Star of David in front of the Brandenburg Gate sent a good signal of solidarity, friendship and solidarity with Israel to the world.

But there were other, shameful images from Germany last weekend, images of men and women celebrating the terror of Hamas on our streets, giving free rein to their hatred of Israel and of our fellow Jews. This is abhorrent.

It is inhumane. It goes against all the values to which we as a country are committed. We will not accept hatred and incitement without action!

We do not tolerate anti-Semitism. Zero tolerance against anti-Semites! That must and that will be our security authorities with all due rigor.

Anyone who glorifies the crimes of Hamas or uses its symbols is liable to prosecution in Germany.

Anyone who condones murder and manslaughter or incites criminal acts is liable to prosecution.

Anyone who burns Israeli flags is liable to prosecution.

Anyone who supports a terrorist organization like Hamas is liable to prosecution.

The federal and state law enforcement agencies will hold anyone who does such a thing accountable -- with all the means that our defensible constitutional state offers. These means expressly include bans on associations and activities. The Federal Ministry of the Interior will issue a ban on Hamas' activities in Germany. An association like Samidoun, whose members celebrate brutal acts of terrorism on the open street, is banned in Germany.

Our law of association is a sharp sword, and we will draw this sword here as a strong constitutional state. Immediately after the terrorist attack on Israel began, we also increased the protection of Jewish and Israeli institutions in this country. This is unfortunately necessary; after all, anti-Semitic hatred and agitation are circulating on the Internet and in the social media, blaming Israel for the attacks.

To this I say: this is perpetrator-victim reversal of the most perfidious kind.

In recent years, I have often worked with Israel. I have spoken with many of the responsible officials in the country, including representatives of the current government. I always raised critical issues, such as the settlement policy or the dwindling prospects for a two-state solution.

But nothing justifies even remotely violence against innocent women and men!

Nothing, but nothing at all justifies the terror of Hamas!

There is also nothing to relativize. Any "yes, but" is completely out of place in view of the terrorists' brutality and contempt for human life, ladies and gentlemen.

The Federal President and you, Madam President, have called on us to be vigilant and to stand clearly by the side of the citizens of Israel who are under attack. We are doing this today and will continue to do so in the future by unequivocally committing ourselves to Israel's security and by protecting our Jewish fellow citizens here in Germany.

We do this out of responsibility for our history and in deep solidarity and friendship with the Jewish state of Israel.

Thank you very much.

1 French for "reason" (or justification) "for existence." In this context, the meaning is closer to "profound, abiding commitment."

Page Updated: 10/17/23

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