President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday 11 Iyar held a working meeting at his residence with President of Germany, Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was making an official visit to Israel having taken office as President in March this year. Before their meeting, both Presidents delivered statements to the media.
President Rivlin began, “Welcome to Jerusalem, I am delighted to host you and congratulate you on taking office as President of the Federal Republic of Germany. I was not at all surprised that you, as a true friend of Israel, chose Israel as your first visit outside of Europe”. He continued, “Your visit now follows visits of your successor Foreign Minister Gabriel, and your predecessor, former President Gauck; together these visits are a testament that specifically out of the traumatic past – that will never be forgotten – the special and respectful relations between Germany and Israel are flourishing.”
“It is an opportunity to thank you personally Mr. President, for your great contribution to Israeli-German relations,” said President Rivlin, and thanked the German President for his opposition to the recent UNESCO Resolution. “We appreciate Germany’s leadership, in the recent period, in the defense of democracy and democratic values, around the world and in Europe particularly. We all know that democracy is a condition for liberty, while liberty will never be a thing of simplicity. Israel is a vibrant democracy, with different, diverse, and critical voices. Sometimes, these voices are hard to digest, and outrageous, and specifically out of our obligation, and respect to other opinions, we reject the latest decision of UNESCO which defines Israel as an occupying power in Jerusalem, our capital, in which you are standing right now Mr. President. A people cannot be an occupier in its own land. We are not occupiers in our own capital. We welcome Germany’s opposition to the distorted and twisted text of this decision.”
President Rivlin spoke on the issue of the civil war in Syria, and of the aid Israel was providing to the injured. “As a nation that has suffered persecution and as refugees, more than any other nation in history, we cannot stand by in the face of the atrocities taking place just over the border. Here in Israel, the small hospital in the city of Naharia has been transformed into a world leader in treating the casualties of war, most of them from Syria, defined as an enemy state. We do not fear giving aid to anyone. This is how we have acted in the past, and so we will continue. At the same time, we demand of the international community to do everything in order to end the ongoing humanitarian wilderness in Syria, with the removal of forces hostile to stability and peace in the region.”
The President concluded by expressing his hope that President Steinmeier’s meetings during his visit would be fruitful and deepen further the ties between the two countries.
President Steinmeier thanked the President for his warm welcome, and for their less formal and more unusual meeting the previous night when the two toured the Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. “We were greatly impressed with the vibrant and colorful atmosphere we saw in the young Israelis enjoying in market. We also saw young tourists from Germany having fun with young Israelis, scenes similar to what is happening in Berlin. It was a tremendous experience.”
President Steinmeier went on to state the importance he saw in his first visit to Israel as President, as a testimony to the commitment of Germany to Israel. He said, “The relationship between the State of Israel and Germany is special, it was in the past, and will be in the future. The renewal of our relationship is a miracle, a miracle which took place between Germans who took upon themselves the unimaginable guilt, and between the people of Israel, and the State of Israel who reached out a hand to them. Our relations are relations of trust, in which we are committed to the past, and working to build a shared future.”
He continued, “In the last weeks, we have experienced turbulent winds, but the basis upon which our relations are founded is solid, and can withstand all challenges. Our relationship is too important and deep to be dependent on this or that discussion. And even when there are disagreements between us, as there have been in the past, they do not endanger these foundations. My visit here is intended to further strengthen the relations between us and to reinforce even more their roots. As friends, in my opinion, we have no need for new rules of behavior, and we do not need to fear what someone may say.”
He added, “To my mind, the only way to reach a solution is two states for two peoples, I don’t see any other option and we know that the status quo does not allow for real progress.”
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem/Photo Credit: Mark Neiman, GPO)