AOn Sunday, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will receive Israeli President Yitzhak Herzog. The two give a press conference, and in the evening there is a celebratory dinner at Bellevue Palace. Although the visit of an Israeli President to Germany is always something special, these appointments sound like a relaxed program. But then there is Monday, September 5th, the fiftieth anniversary of the Palestinian attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Steinmeier will travel to Fürstenfeldbruck and give a speech. But will Herzog come with you? So far, the plan is that he will not do it and will meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday.
The background to this uncertainty is the decades-long dispute between the relatives of the victims of the attack on the one hand and the federal government, the Bavarian state government and the city of Munich on the other. It’s about compensation. Although there have already been payments in the past decades, the relatives are dissatisfied with Germany’s handling of the attack for several reasons. So far, the relatives have not wanted to come to Fürstenfeldbruck. If they don’t go there, Herzog won’t come either.
Intensive negotiations are still ongoing. In Berlin it was whispered on Tuesday that there was a new proposal for an agreement on the part of the relatives. Ankie Spitzer, one of the two spokesmen for the eleven victims’ families, bluntly rejected this to the FAZ: “It’s all nonsense,” said Spitzer on Tuesday. “All kinds of suggestions are going around. We are still waiting for them to accept our final demands!”
There is not much time left for an agreement
According to reports, the topic will also be discussed at the two-day cabinet retreat in Meseberg Castle on Tuesday and Wednesday. As much as the federal government is reluctant to comment on the status of the talks, it emphasizes that efforts are being made to reach an agreement. “Against the background of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the assassination attempt on Israeli athletes in September 1972 at the Summer Olympics in Munich, the federal government has once again dealt intensively with the background and effects of this cruel attack,” said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit on August 12 in front of the Federal press conference. A “re-evaluation of the handling of the events of that time and their thorough historical processing” is considered necessary. This includes not only the processing in a commission of historians, but also “the provision of further recognition services,” said Hebestreit. 18 days later, on Tuesday, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, in response to repeated requests from the FAZ, sent a statement that was almost exactly the same. Behind this extremely defensive information policy could be the effort not to disrupt a last-minute agreement with public comments. There is not much time left.
The matter is extremely sensitive for Berlin. On the one hand, it is a septic sore in the historically burdened German-Israeli relationship. On the other hand, there is obviously concern that other groups of victims could also make further claims for compensation if the victims of the Olympic attack should get more than they have received so far. This is not only aimed at historical events, but also at the victims of the Islamist attack on Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz in December 2016.