EU Parliament condemns Israeli settlements

The European Parliament has denounced Israel’s latest settlement push and announced an EU peace initiative. An Israeli group says it is the first time the EU has mentioned alleged Palestinian funding of terrorism.

Symbolbild Israel Siedlungen im Westjordanland (picture-alliance/newscom/D. Hill)

DW RECOMMENDS

Palestine West Bank holds elections as Gaza Strip left behind

Bitter rivalries between the Hamas and Fatah parties were highlighted by the West Bank’s municipal elections.

Steinmeier navigates tricky visit in Israel

After UNESCO Jerusalem vote, Israel cuts UN funding

Israel approves first new West Bank settlement in two decades

Members of the European Parliament on Thursday attacked Israel’s settlement policy, particularly a law that retroactively legalized Jewish settlements on privately owned Palestinian land.

A “two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states” was the only viable option for lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, MEPs said in a resolution.

The resolution called for Israel to immediately stop construction of new settlements as they were “illegal under international law, undermine the two-state solution, and constitute a major obstacle to peace efforts.”

The resolution condemned all acts of violence and terrorism and all acts of provocation and incitement, including on Israelis.

MEPs signaled their intention to launch a new EU peace initiative to focusing on the two-state solution and to achieve concrete results within a set period.

Five major parliamentary groups voted in favor of the resolution, which singled out the so-called regularization law approved by Israel’s parliament in February.

The Brussels-based American Jewish Committee Transatlantic Institute commended the EU’s resolution, saying previous resolutions lacked balance.

“While we would have wished for even clearer language, we appreciate the important step Parliament has taken to end the counterproductive habit of sheltering the Palestinians from legitimate criticism,” said Director Daniel Schwammenthal.

“By unflinchingly addressing also the Palestinians’ own shortcomings that prevent the creation of an independent Palestinian state – such as incitement, terror, corruption, lack of rule of law, internal division – the EU can play a truly constructive role in the peace process.”

His comments referred to language in the resolution he interpreted as an “indirect condemnation of the Palestinian Authority for paying significant salaries to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons.”

About 600,000 Israeli settlers live in more than 200 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In December, the Israeli government lashed out over a UN Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlement building in the Palestinian Territories and called on Israel to stop immediately.

aw/rt (AFP, dpa)

Watch video26:00

Hanan Ashrawi on ‘Conflict Zone’

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Israel Said to Be Source of Secret Intelligence Trump Gave to Russians

Photo

President Trump escorting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel into the White House in February.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The classified intelligence that President Trump disclosed in a meeting last week with Russian officials at the White House was provided by Israel, according to a current and a former American official familiar with how the United States obtained the information. The revelation adds a potential diplomatic complication to an episode that has renewed questions about how the White House handles sensitive intelligence.

Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and runs one of the most active espionage networks in the Middle East. Mr. Trump’s boasting about some of Israel’s most sensitive information to the Russians could damage the relationship between the two countries and raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the region.

Israeli officials would not confirm that they were the source of the information that Mr. Trump shared, which was about an Islamic State plot. In a statement emailed to The New York Times, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, reaffirmed that the two countries would maintain a close counterterrorism relationship.

“Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Mr. Dermer said.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he had an “absolute right” to share information in the interest of fighting terrorism and called his meeting with the Russians “very, very successful” in a brief appearance later at the White House.

On Capitol Hill, reaction split along party lines, but even many Republicans indicated that they wanted the White House to show more discipline.

“There’s some alignments that need to take place over there, and I think they’re fully aware of that,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “Just the decision-making processes and everybody being on the same page.”

In the meeting last week, Mr. Trump told Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, details about the Islamic State plot, including the city in Syria where the ally learned the information, the current official said. At least some of the details that the United States has about the Islamic State plot came from the Israelis, said the officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

It was not clear whether the president or the other Americans in the meeting were aware of the sensitivity of what was shared. Only afterward, when notes on the discussion were circulated among National Security Council officials, was the information flagged as too sensitive to be shared, even among many American officials, the officials said.

Intelligence officials worried that Mr. Trump provided enough details to effectively expose the source of the information and the manner in which it had been collected.

Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, defended Mr. Trump’s move, saying the president made a spur-of-the-moment decision to tell the Russians what he knew and did not expose the source of the intelligence because he was not told where it came from.

Moreover, General McMaster said that by discussing the city where the information originated, the president had not given away secrets. “It was nothing that you would not know from open-source reporting in terms of a source of concern,” he said. “And it had all to do with operations that are already ongoing, had been made public for months.”

Two senior United States military officials said that Mr. Trump’s disclosures seemed to align with an increasing concern that militants responsible for such attacks were slipping out of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital, and taking refuge in other cities under their control, such as Deir al-Zour and Mayadeen.

These officials said they had no specific knowledge of what Mr. Trump told the two senior Russian diplomats in the Oval Office last week, or how that related to a likely decision expected soon by the Homeland Security Department to expand its ban on carrying portable electronics. But the officials said the timing of the events seemed hardly a coincidence.

American and British authorities in March barred passengers from airports in 10 predominantly Muslim countries from carrying laptop computers, iPads and other devices larger than a cellphone aboard inbound flights to the United States after intelligence analysts concluded that the Islamic State was developing a type of bomb hidden in batteries. Homeland Security officials are considering whether to broaden the ban to include airports in Europe and possibly other places, American security officials said Tuesday.

Mr. Trump’s disclosure was also likely to fuel questions about the president’s relationship with Moscow at the same time that the F.B.I. and congressional committees are investigating whether his associates cooperated with Russian meddling in last year’s election. Mr. Trump has repeatedly dismissed such suspicions as false stories spread by Democrats to explain their election defeat, but his friendly approach toward President Vladimir V. Putin in spite of Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine and other actions has stirred controversy.

The timing of the episode also threatened to overshadow Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad as president. He is scheduled to leave on Friday for Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium.

In Israel, he was already likely to contend with Israeli officials rattled by the administration’s refusal to say outright that the Western Wall, one of the holiest prayer sites in Judaism, lies in Israel, and is not subject to territorial claims by the Palestinians. The wall is in Jerusalem — part of what is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary — and is considered one of the holiest sites in Islam. Both the Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their capital.

Now, the Americans and Israelis will have to contend with the serious breach of espionage etiquette. Israel had previously urged the United States to be careful about the handling of the intelligence that Mr. Trump discussed, the officials said.

Former officials said it was not uncommon for presidents to unintentionally say too much in meetings, and they said that in administrations from both parties, staff members typically established bright lines for their bosses to avoid crossing before such meetings.

“The Russians have the widest intelligence collection mechanism in the world outside of our own,” said John Sipher, a 28-year veteran of the C.I.A. who served in Moscow in the 1990s and later ran the agency’s Russia program for three years. “They can put together a good picture with just a few details. They can marry President Trump’s comments with their own intelligence, and intelligence from their allies. They can also deploy additional resources to find out details.”

Nonetheless, General McMaster said he was not concerned that information sharing among partner countries might stop.

“What the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he’s engaged,” General McMaster said at a White House briefing, seeking to play down the sensitivity of the information that Mr. Trump disclosed.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, declined to tell reporters whether the White House had reached out to the ally that provided the sensitive intelligence.

But General McMaster appeared to acknowledge that Thomas P. Bossert, the assistant to the president for Homeland Security and counterterrorism, had called the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency after the meeting with the Russian officials. Other officials have said that the spy agencies were contacted to help contain the damage from the leak to the Russians.

General McMaster would not confirm that Mr. Bossert made the calls but suggested that if he did, he was acting “maybe from an overabundance of caution.”

The episode could have far-reaching consequences, Democrats warned. Any country that shares intelligence with American officials “could decide it can’t trust the United States with information, or worse, that it can’t trust the president of the United States with information,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

“I have to hope that someone will counsel the president about just what it means to protect closely held information and why this is so dangerous, ultimately, to our national security,” Mr. Schiff said at a policy conference in Washington sponsored by the Center for American Progress, a liberal group.

Russia dismissed the reports. A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry denied that Mr. Trump had given classified information to Russian officials, and she denigrated American news reports of the disclosure as “fake.”

Sharing the United States’ own intelligence with Russia, much less information from a foreign ally, has long been a contentious issues in American national security circles. In fact, many Republicans strenuously objected last year when the Obama administration proposed sharing limited intelligence about Syria with Russia.

One of the Republicans was Mike Pompeo, the former congressman from Kansas who now runs the C.I.A. In an appearance last year on a podcast hosted by Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official now best known for his anti-Muslim views, Mr. Pompeo said sharing intelligence with the Russians was a “dumb idea.”

Israeli right-wingers in cabinet push for Jewish state status to be set in law

The move comes just two weeks before US President Tump is expected to visit the region to discuss renewing peace talks. Critics say the measure would relegate Israeli Arabs to second class citizens.

Symbolbild Israel Siedlungen im Westjordanland (picture-alliance/newscom/D. Hill)

Right-wingers in Israel’s cabinet have renewed their push to anchor the country’s status as a Jewish state into law. Opponents say it would relegate the Arab minority to second-class citizens and further diminish any hopes for a peace settlement with the Palestinians.

DW RECOMMENDS

German President Steinmeier mends ties with Israel’s Netanyahu after diplomatic spat

President Steinmeier has underlined the strength of German-Israeli ties in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Relations between the two countries have suffered due to a spat over an anti-occupation group. (07.05.2017)

Before Netanyahu talks, Steinmeier vows to back Israel

A bleak prediction for peace between Israel and Palestine

Two-state solution in the air, but Trump still confident of Middle East peace

The revision of a bill, first proposed in 2011, declares the “State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people,” its author, Avi Dichter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, wrote on Facebook.

The legislation still has to pass through the Justice Ministry and wind its way through parliament. But the cabinet level move, coming just two weeks before a visit by US President Donald Trump, carries political significance.

The bill could help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu firm up relations with far-right members of his cabinet and underpin his bid to press Palestinians to recognize Israel as the “nation-state” of the Jewish people.

Netanyahu has long demanded such recognition as a precondition for reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which had been moribund for years and collapsed outright in 2014.

Trump has pledged to jumpstart peace talks. But Palestinians say accepting Netanyahu’s demand could deny Palestinian refugees of past wars any right of return.

Second-class citizens

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has characterized such “nation-state” legislation as putting “obstacles in the way of peace.” Others, such as Arab legislator Ayman Odeh, have been more blunt in their criticism.

Odeh slammed the proposed bill, writing on Twitter: “The nation-state law is tyranny by the majority and ‘legally’ turns us into second-class citizens.”

Critics also note that the proposed legislation, which also declares that the “right to self determination” in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people” impinges on the rights of its Arab minority, who make up some 20 percent of the population.

Israel Frank-Walter Steinmeier und Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem (picture alliance/dpa/Newscom/R. Zvulun)German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has visited Israel

The bill designates Hebrew as the country’s only official language, although it requires government services and forms to be available in Arabic as well.

But Dichter defended the new bill calling it, “an important step in entrenching our identity, not only in the consciousness of the world but primarily in our own minds.”

The revised bill appears to soften previous language that would have given Jewish values prominence in law-making and judicial decisions.

Centrist resistance

But the bill is not only opposed by political opponents but even centrists in Netanyahu’s government have argued against a “nation-state” bill, calling it unnecessary and noting that the 1948 Declaration of Independence already proclaimed Israel a Jewish state.

They have accused Netanyahu of pandering to right-wingers.

During his upcoming visit to the Middle East, Trump is expected to discuss how he plans to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians – a goal that has eluded US presidents for decades. He is also expected to meet Abbas during his trip.

Odeh told the Times of Israel, “The danger of this bill is that it creates two classes of citizens.”

bik/jm (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Two-state solution in the air, but Trump still confident of Middle East peace

US President Trump has vowed to “do whatever is necessary” to reach peace between Israelis and Palestinians. After meeting Palestinian leader Abbas, Trump said peace is “maybe not as difficult as people have thought.”

Watch video00:38

Trump sees ‘good chance’ for Mideast peace

After a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, US President Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he’d “love to be a mediator, an arbitrator or a facilitator” between Israel and the Palestinians in a bid to achieve a Middle East peace agreement.

The US president said he believes, “We will get it done.” But he also conceded that a deal “cannot be imposed by the United States or any other nation.”

Watch video02:35

Will Trump move embassy to Jerusalem?

“It’s … something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years,” he said at the beginning of a lunch with Abbas and senior US and Palestinian leaders.

No new strategy

In doing so, Trump committed his administration to helping to resolve the decades-old conflict, something his three direct predecessors have failed to achieve. But at the same time, he didn’t offer any new strategy about how peace could be achieved.

Questions have been raised about Trump’s choice of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who entered the White House with no government experience, to oversee Middle East peace efforts, along with Trump’s longtime business lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, as on-the-ground envoy.

Abbas spoke through an interpreter and was equally positive, saying: “We are coming into a new opportunity a new horizon that would enable us to bring about peace.”

Washington Jared Kushner (Getty Images/AFP/N. Kamm)Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is to over Middle East peace efforts on behalf of the US administration

DW RECOMMENDS

Hamas recognizes 1967 borders, rejects Israel

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has altered its three-decade-old charter, softening its tone somewhat while rejecting negotiations with Israel. Israel has accused Hamas of attempting to fool the world. (02.05.2017)

Merkel tells Abbas, two-state solution only alternative

Rights groups mount legal challenge to Israel settlement law

Israeli minister: Palestinian state ‘off the table’ under Trump

But he added that peace with Israel must be “based on the vision of two states” based on the 1967 borders with the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, and renewed his call for Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land.

Abbas said he hoped the US could be “true partners” to bring about a historic settlement.

Confusing signals

But Trump’s commitment was met with skepticism in diplomatic quarters, coming just two months after he broke with the longstanding US policy of advocating a two-state solution, and vowed to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, breaking with US policies that have lasted decades.

That move would likely spark Palestinian fury and is privately seen by many in the Israel and US security establishments as needlessly inflammatory.

On Tuesday, US Vice President Mike Pence said that “serious consideration” was still being given to the embassy move.

Plans are being made for Trump to visit Netanyahu in Jerusalem later this month, and possibly meet Abbas in the West Bank, the Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday. It said US and Israeli officials have declined to confirm the trip.

Watch video02:37

Blackouts in Gaza look set to worsen

mm/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Netanyahu accuses German Foreign Minister Gabriel of ‘tactlessness’

Israeli PM Netanyahu has urged Germany’s foreign minister to avoid meeting with “radical fringe groups.” Earlier this week, Netanyahu canceled a meeting with Sigmar Gabriel just after Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.

Israel Benjamin Netanjahu (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Sultan)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Germany’s foreign minister of meeting with “radical fringe groups,” days after the right-wing leader snubbed Sigmar Gabriel for meeting with human rights organizations.

In an interview with the German daily “Bild,” Netanyahu called Gabriel’s meeting with two human rights groups critical of the Israeli military’s treatment of Palestinians and occupation of the West Bank “tactless.”

“I find it extremely tactless for such a meeting (with “Breaking the Silence” and B’Tselem) to take place at this time,” Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, he said. “On this day we mourn the murdered members of our people and our fallen soldiers.”

Gabriel’s visit with groups “Breaking the Silence” and B’Tselem came a day after Israel commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day, when Gabriel attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem memorial alongside Netanyahu.

B’Tselem is a prominent NGO that records human rights abuses and Jewish settlement building in Palestinian territories. “Breaking the Silence” documents testimony from ex-Israeli soldiers about abuses committed against Palestinians.

The Israeli prime minster added that he had attempted to explain his actions to Gabriel, “but he refused a telephone call,” said Netanyahu. The German foreign ministry refutes the claim.

Sigmar Gabriel in JerusalemGerman Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (left) on Mount Zion in Jerusalem this week

Netanyahu, who overseas the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history, has roiled relations with Germany over continued illegal settlement building in the West Bank and a crackdown on critical civil society groups. Berlin is concerned Israeli policies are veering away from a two-state solution. 

The prime minister’s decision to cancel a scheduled meeting Gabriel was criticized by Israel’s liberal opposition, but backed by the right-wing and Netanyahu’s allies.

Analysts suggested that Netanyahu’s decision was in part a move to gain political points among the right-wing on the domestic front, something Gabriel also noted when he commented that Germany cannot become “a political football for Israeli domestic politics.” Notably, Gabriel’s visit with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin went ahead.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesperson defended the foreign minister.

“In a democracy it should be possible for foreign visitors to speak without problems to critical representatives of civil society,” Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said earlier this week.

Both sides have sought to downplay the row’s impact on long-term relations.

Watch video26:00

Hanan Ashrawi on Conflict Zone

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

US at UN accuses Russia of covering up Syria attacks

The US and Russian ambassadors at the UN engaged in a heated exchange over chemical weapons, attacks and aid in Syria. Russia claimed Turkey and Iran were working to ensure compliance with a ceasefire.

USA Vereinte Nationen zur Lage in Syrien Stephen O'Brien (picture-alliance/Zumapress/A. Lohr-Jones)

US ambassador Nikki Haley forcefully attacked Russia’s role in Syria, accusing Moscow forces of providing cover for the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons and denying desperately needed aid to hundreds of thousands of beseiged people.

“All eyes and all pressure now need to go to Russia because they are the ones that could stop this if they wanted to,” Haley said at the monthly Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria on Thursday.

USA Vereinte Nationen zur Lage in Syrien Nikki Haley (picture-alliance/Zumapress/A. Lohr-Jones)US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley

She urged council members not to continue “to give Russia a pass for allowing this terrible situation to occur.” The US ambassador urged other UN Security powers to pressure Russia into persuading its ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and “deliver real peace talks.”

Haley referred to eight resolutions blocked by Moscow to shield Assad’s government and Russia “cover for a leader who uses chemical weapons against his own people.”

Russian response

USA Vereinte Nationen Peter Iliichev (Getty Images/AFP/K. Betancur)Russian Deputy Ambassador Peter Illiichev

Petr Iliichev, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador asserted that Russia, Iran and Turkey were working to ensure that Syria’s factions upheld a December 30 ceasefire. He demanded that Syria’s many opposition groups “meet us halfway.”

“The ongoing criticism of the Syrian government and the emotional calls to the country guarantors (of the cease-fire) including Russia don’t help anything,” Iliichev said.

The Russian envoy said earlier that, on the whole, the December ceasefire was holding, although there were movements of “terrorists and armed groups” and incidents undermining it that were affecting the delivery of aid.

Humanitarian situation deteriorating

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien decried “starve and surrender” tactics being used primarily by al-Assad’s government on besieged areas with 620,000 people affected.

Syrien Douma UN Hilfskonvoi Roter Halbmond (Reuters/B.Khabieh )UN aid convoy in October 2016

An already bad situation was deteriorating O’Brien said. Not a single convoy had reached a besieged area during April “due to a lack of authorizations,” the UN official said. O’Brien said that “children have fared the worst,” as the conflict in Syria enters its sixth year. They were “suffering physical and psychological trauma,” he said.

Syria accuses Israel

The exchanges in New York took place hours after Syria accused Israel of striking a military installation near Damascus International Airport.

Israel subsequently said one of its Patriot missiles had struck an incoming drone from Syria over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel has in the past maintained it has the right to prevent weapons being transferred to Hezbollah, a Syrian-allied Lebanese force.

Air strikes in Idlib province

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said airstrikes across the opposition-held Idlib province on Thursday had claimed at least 19 lives.

A Syrian group, Civil Defense, said those killed included four medical staff of a university hospital in Deir Sharqi.

ipj/jm (AP, Reuters)

DW RECOMMENDS

Merkel awarded Elie Wiesel Prize for preservation of Holocaust memory

Chancellor Merkel has been awarded the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s highest honor for her help preserving memories of the Holocaust. She visited Buchenwald concentration camp with the man after whom the award was named.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a wreath laying ceremony during her visit to the concentration camp Dachau (picture-alliance/AP Photo/K. Joensson)

DW RECOMMENDS

Netanyahu to cancel German FM meeting if he visits NGOs

Sigmar Gabriel will have to choose between meeting Israel’s Prime Minister or human rights groups.

Germany must take anti-Semitism fear seriously

Sigmar Gabriel visits Jerusalem as Israel remembers Holocaust

UN Holocaust files reveal Allies’ knowledge

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was honored on Monday by the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the US for her contributions to Holocaust memory and education.

She was awarded the Elie Wiesel Prize – the highest award given by the museum.

The museum said it gave the award for her “unwavering commitment to making the preservation of Holocaust memory a priority for Germany.”

“When the museum was facing staunch opposition in its effort to open the largest closed Holocaust archive in the world, the International Tracing Service, Chancellor Merkel changed her government’s policy and sent her justice minister to the museum to announce Germany’s support for opening the archives, thereby enabling thousands of survivors and their families to discover for the first time the fate of loved ones,” the museum said in a statement.

“The Chancellor has supported the creation and strengthening of Holocaust-related institutions in Germany which have become among the museum’s most important partners. She has repeatedly and vigorously condemned all manifestations of antisemitism.

“Her visit to Buchenwald with the museum’s founding chairman Elie Wiesel in 2009 was symbolic of the many efforts that have been made by Germany to confront its past.”

Merkel thanked the museum for the award, saying in a video message “We owe it to the victims who went through immeasurable suffering to explore these deepest recesses of our being,” referencing a quote by Wiesel.

German ambassador to the US Peter Wittig accepted the award on her behalf in Washington.

I am honored to have accepted the Elie Wiesel Award, the highest honor of @HolocaustMuseum, on behalf of Chancellor Angela Merkel tonight

Merkel said the award was a “major gesture” of ties between US Holocaust memorial efforts and Germany that was not to be taken for granted.

Merkel said that for Germany to have a bright future, it was essential to understand the Holocaust as “the ultimate betrayal of all civilized values.”

Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel listens to US President George W. Bush at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington (picture-alliance/dpa/Brack Pool)Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel was a tireless human rights campaigner

Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor and the founding chairman of the museum. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986  He died last year.

The museum has awarded the prize since 2011 to recognize “internationally prominent individuals whose actions have advanced the museum’s vision of a world where people confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity.”

April 24 was Holocaust Remembrance Day, known as Yom Hashoah. It marked the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.