German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is looking into a possible visit to Israel over the coming days, Israeli officials said on Wednesday, as Berlin seeks to appease the families of the victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre ahead of its 50th anniversary.
The families have threatened to boycott the official ceremony, planned for next month in Munich. In the ceremony, Steinmeier is expected to formally claim responsibility for Germany's failures in responding to the attack and its aftermath.
Berlin hopes to resolve the dispute with the families regarding the amount of financial compensation they are owed. It’s not yet clear whether the families will make good on their threat to boycott the memorial over the dispute.
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While Steffen Seibert, Germany’s new ambassador to Israel, noted there would be "an element of compensation," he refused to discuss the amount – which is at the core of the dispute with the families. He said that Germany was not going to put the incident behind it and regard it as history. “We want to prevent it from sinking into oblivion, so that people know what happened and remember the Israeli athletes. I hope the victims’ families find a way of attending the ceremony.”
The victims' families note that the current offer is considerably less than the $9 million the then-West Germany gave to the Palestine Liberation Organization months after the Munich massacre as a ransom payment for the release of a hijacked Lufthansa plane.
Though the families and lawyers refuse at this stage to reveal the exact amount they are seeking as compensation, it is estimated to be in the single millions of dollars for each of the murdered athletes. The families view the current negotiation, with the 50th anniversary approaching, as their last chance to receive proper compensation, describing it as “now or never.”