President Reuven Rivlin this morning (Monday) at his residence received the diplomatic credentials of new ambassadors to Israel from the Belgium, Latvia, Switzerland, Greece, and Finland. Each ceremony began with the raising of the flag and the playing of the national anthem of the visiting country, included an honor guard, and - after the presentation of the credentials - the signing of the guest book, before the playing of Israel's national anthem 'Hatikva'.
Photo : President Rivlin welcoming H.E Mr. Olivier Belle , Ambassador of Belgium to Israel.
President Rivlin first welcomed Ambassador of Belgium H.E Mr. Olivier Belle and said, “I know you will feel at home here as I was made to feel during my visit in your country.” He noted, “You have an important role to fulfill regarding the ongoing agreements that we are working on together.” President Rivlin spoke about the importance of the relationship and friendship between the two peoples, and of “the need to fight - not Islam - but to fight terror, because terror is terror is terror wherever it occurs.” He added, “You are the army and the police that protects the heart of the European Union. We must carry on to work together to share the burden of security in the face of the threats.”
President Rivlin concluded by extending an official invitation to the King of Belgium to visit Israel in the near future.
Ambassador Belle thanked the President for his warm welcome and said, “We have just arrived but feel at home, and have already visited much of your country.” He noted, “There are many challenges,” and that “Israel is a special country for Belgium. We have a long friendship and it is necessary every day to consolidate this friendship – based on shared values - and I will do my best to do so.” The Ambassador spoke of the need to work to fight against discrimination and antisemitism, and added that Belgium was proud of its bilateral relationship in the fields of culture and innovation especially.
Photo : President Rivlin welcoming H.E Ms Elita Gavele , Ambassador of Latvia to Israel.
The President then welcomed Ambassador of Latvia, H.E Ms. Elita Gavele, and noted that “Within a year we will celebrate 25 years of the relationship between our countries.” He congratulated the Ambassador on her country’s joining the OECD, and noted, “For both states, Israel and Latvia, this is very important as we don’t have much natural resources but we have a lot of human resources and we appreciate very much the cooperation between our people.”
The President spoke of the importance of Holocaust education, and added, “We would like to emphasize the importance of your efforts to educate the next generations about what happened in the Holocaust, and to understand this must be remembered by all mankind and humanity."
Ambassador Gavele thanked the President and noted that “The Jewish people in Latvia have done so much for our country, and there are nearly 4,000 Israeli citizens here from Latvia,” who she noted were an important bridge between the two peoples. She noted that the Latvia President was due to come to Israel in 2018, and that there were high level ministerial visits planned including the Agricultural Minister who was arriving later in the day. The Ambassador noted, “We will celebrate our 25 years of relations with cultural events and discussions," and commented on the success of recent political consultations. She stressed, “A main issue is to improve our economic relationship”.
Photo : President Rivlin welcoming H.E Mr Jean-Daniel Ruch , Ambassador of Switzerland to Israel.
President Rivlin then received the diplomatic credentials of Ambassador of Switzerland, H.E Mr. Jean-Daniel Ruch. The President noted that “Next year we will commemorate 120 years since the first Zionist Congress which took place in Basel. Fifteen Zionist Congresses took place in Switzerland, and indeed it is well known across the Jewish world that Herzl said ‘In Basel I established the new Jewish state’.” He noted “This reminds us how important Switzerland was for the new Jewish renaissance”, and added, “Switzerland is also very important to Israel in terms of commerce, and we are also cooperating in many other fields including on the need to safeguard the whole world,” in the face of security threats.
Ambassador Ruch thanked the President and said that he felt, “The relationship between our peoples is an emotional one stretching back – as you said - to the first Zionist Congress,” and added that, “Israel in the conscious mind of Switzerland is a country with which we share many similarities - countries that are around the same size, with diverse societies.” He noted that “We also have many personal connections. There are around 20,000 Swiss citizens living in Israel, the largest Swiss community east of Europe. This has developed into a vast array of economic, cultural, and nowadays scientific links and cooperation.” He said that, “Among many in Switzerland, Israel is seen a almost a sister country when it comes to hi-tech and the development of sciences.” He noted that fostering this relationship would be one of his priorities.
He concluded, “Switzerland - as the nation which hosts the ICRC, and the host of numerous peace conferences - is keen to see a just and lasting peace in this region. We remain committed and remain available - of course peace must come from the actors - but we will do whatever we can to bring peace to the people of this region.”
Photo : President Rivlin welcoming H.E Mr Konstantinos Bikas , Ambassador of Greece to Israel.
President Rivlin then welcomed Ambassador of Greece, H.E Mr. Konstantinos Bikas. “It is a real honor to welcome an ambassador from the state which is the birthplace of democracy," said the President, and added, "the connection between the Greek people and the Jewish people is thousands of years old. As much as someone could never say that the Acropolis is not part of the Greek people, no one could say the Western Wall is not the place where Jews have prayed for centuries. We do not need to imagine history - we can see history.”
The President spoke of increased Israeli tourism to Greece and of the strengthening relationship between the two countries. He also stressed the importance of the upcoming trilateral meetings with Cyprus.
Ambassador Bikas thanked the President for his “Kind and wise words”. He said “Our relations in the last years have become strategic ones, based on the history we share, the values we share, on the democracy we share. History is something both for Jews and for Greeks that can never be taken away, it is part of who we are and we must respect it.”
Photo : President Rivlin welcoming H.E Ms. Anu Saarela , Ambassador of Finland to Israel.
Lastly, President Rivlin welcomed Ambassador of Finland. H.E Ms. Anu Saarela and said, “I admire Finland’s attitude toward education, the most important thing for every leader in Finland. Israel is considered the Start-Up nation with great universities, and I know that the cooperation between our two peoples in these issues is very important.”
He added, “We can agree to disagree on many issues, but we share the values of democracy and the dignity and the honor of all people.”
Ambassador Saarela said, “Thank you for kind words about my country. We share much more than divides us," she noted. "We want to learn from Israel, from your multiculturalism – the way you have built this country with people coming from all over. We also share the quest for innovation and hi-tech, I am sure we can deepen those ties even further," she added.
The Ambassador stressed, “We also share the objective of peace. I would like to especially stress what you said, and salute you for defending the fundamental values we share of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. These are the values on which our countries are built.”
She concluded, “Next year Finland will celebrate 100 years of independence, and we are looking forward to presenting Israeli society with many sides of our culture, innovation, and more.”
Photo Mark Neumann GPO