(dpa) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel will become the first foreign head of government to address the Israeli Knesset on Tuesday afternoon.
Her speech became possible after the Knesset changed its regulations which stipulate that only a head of state, and not a head of government, may be invited to address the legislature.
And, in another indication of how the two countries are drawing closer together, on Monday morning 17 German and Israeli ministers, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Merkel, held a joint cabinet session, to discuss projects in such fields as defence, education ad the environment.
Germany currently holds similar joint cabinet consultations with other countries, but Israel is the only one outside of Europe, indicating, as Merkel said on her arrival, that her visit has opened a "new chapter" in the relationship between the sides.
But the "old chapter", the other aspect of the Israeli-German relationship, is never far away, and it was highlighted when right- wing lawmakers objected to Merkel addressing the Knesset in her native tongue, arguing that it was inappropriate for German to be heard in the parliament of the Jewish state, only 63 years after the Holocaust.
The Holocaust, the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews during World War II, and the years of persecution which preceded it, was once the dominant factor in Israeli-German relations - for example in the frosty, often downright acrimonious, relationship between former Israeli premier Menahem Begin, whose parents were murdered by the Nazis, and former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who served as an artillery officer in the German army during the war.
The argument could be, and in fact is, made that the subject still dominates the relations between the two countries, in that it leads Israel to expect preferential treatment from Germany, and causes Germany to avoid criticising Israel harshly, or even - say critics - at all.
But during the Merkel's visit, both sides, while not neglecting to mention the impact of the Holocaust, seemed determined to emphasize other aspects of their ties.
Israel regards Germany as its closest ally in Europe, and Ambassador to Berlin Yoram Ben-Zeev described the Merkel visit as "one of the most important by a head of government in many years."
Jerusalem, said Ben-Zeev, had high expectations from the trip, regarding both Germany's role in mediating Israel's ties with the European Union, and its efforts to promote the creation of "viable and democratic state structures in the Palestinian territories."
"The two sides seek to strengthen and intensify their political, cultural, economic and social relations as a partnership of democratic and pluralistic nations," a joint statement issued after the special cabinet session said.
Whether or not the Merkel visit does indicate a "new chapter" or is merely a logical progression of the ties which, apart from one of two blips, have become steadily closer over the years, is debateable.
What is beyond argument, however, is that the relationship has moved on from the suspicion of the early years, and from the angry protests which greeted the arrival of the first German ambassador to Israel, Rolf Pauls, in 1965.