Israel’s President Rivlin meets Belgian and European leaders in Brussels
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    Israel’s President Rivlin meets Belgian and European leaders in Brussels

    photo credit: Mark Neiman (GPO)
    photo credit: Mark Neiman (GPO)

    Against a background of high alert in Brussels, President Reuven Rivlin hold a working meeting today (21 June) with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk.

    “Promoting peace in the Middle East is a vital interest of Israel. At the same time, I believe that our special bi-lateral relations can grow and develop in an independent way,” President Rivlin said.

    President Tusk replied that “We will deepen our cooperation on counter-terrorism, including by launching our dialogue in this area later this year. Terrorism can only be defeated if we face it together.”

    During their meeting, President Tusk asked to hear from the Israeli President about his regional outlook, and the challenges which Israel currently faced. The two spoke about the importance of restarting the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as about the situation in Syria and Lebanon, and global phenomenon of the Islamic State.

    At the conclusion of their meeting, the two Presidents delivered media statements. President Rivlin thanked President Tusk for his welcome, and said “You are a true friend of Israel”.

    He went on to stress, “This is my first visit as the President of the State of Israel to the EU institutions.  I see it as a sign of the great importance of the relations between the State of Israel and the European Union.”

    “The European Union is Israel’s largest partner in all areas: trade, science, environment and culture. As a leading force in science and innovation, Israel is proud to share its technology, research and development with Europe.”

    On the issue of the Israel-Palestinian peace process President Tusk said: “A lasting peace in the region has been made a top priority for the European community, we continue to work with both sides and to coordinate with the partners in the Middle East in order to support the ‘two state solution’.”

    “The European Union is ready back up a peace deal with an unprecedented package of cooperation and support to both sides. The European Union will continue to provide assistance to Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to enable them to meet their basic humanitarian and development needs.”

    The Israeli President, once a member of the right-wing Likud party which runs Israel in a coalition government, has become an eloquent proponent for a democratic and inclusive society. His statements are sometimes at odds with the policies of the Israeli government.

    In an article today in the Israeli opposition paper Haaretz, Rivlin was described as “the only functioning ideological opposition” to the right-wing Israeli government.

    The Israeli President began his official visit to the European Union and Belgium yesterday when he met with King Phillipe, and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

    President Rivlin: “Today we know that there is a link between anti-Semitism against Jews, and Jihadi terror that kills innocent people of all religions. We must not wait for anti-Semitism to become terror; we must fight it from the beginning, together.”

    “We hope that under your leadership, Belgium will say ‘No to BDS’ and ‘Yes to peace’, ‘Yes to cooperation’.” By BDS, Rivlin referred to the boycott movement against Israel (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions).

    “The fight against terror stands central to the efforts of our two peoples and of the whole world. We must improve the coordination between our intelligence organizations, to ensure that we will succeed to prevent future attacks,” said Prime Minister Michel.

    The Prime Minister stressed that in their discussions, “I had the opportunity to reaffirm Belgium’s commitment to fighting anti-Semitism. We will fight anti-Semitism with all our strength. This is a shared struggle.”

    Tomorrow (22 June), President Rivlin is due to deliver a special address before the European Parliament and will also meet leaders of the European institutions. The following day (23 June), the Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas will address the European Parliament.

    Unconfirmed rumors tell that the two presidents will meet in Brussels. Such a meeting, if it would take place, could signify a break-through in the dormant peace process.

    The Brussels Times