Tuesday, 7 November 2017 / 18 Cheshvan 5778
President Rivlin addresses the Spanish parliament
(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)
President Rivlin: “Spain is one country for us, and the problems it faces these days are internal. Our relations with all the citizens of Spain are dear to us, and we pray that the current challenge will be solved through understanding.”
“I expect Spain to continue to be a voice that emphasizes the importance of cooperation, a voice that opposes boycotts. Anyone who tries to harm the State of Israel by means of boycotts is personally sabotaging the chances of ever reaching a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and will find themselves on the wrong side of history.”
“Iranian threats to destroy Israel cannot be tolerated. We have a clear expectation from Israel’s friends across the world to choose a side, not to accept attempts again to eradicate the Jewish people, neither by deeds or words.”
President Reuven Rivlin today, Tuesday, addressed a special plenary of both houses of the Spanish parliament. The President was received by both President of the Senate, Pío García-Escudero Márquez, and President of the Congress of Deputies, Ana María Pastor Julián, at a ceremony which included the playing of both national anthems and signing the official guestbook. The President was then presented with both the Gold Medal of the Senate, and the Gold Medal of the Congress of Deputies, before being shown antique books from the Senate Library.
“In my people’s heritage, Spain is not just a place, it is not even just a culture: Spain is a notion. On this land, at the meeting point of civilizations, lived in unprecedented proximity Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Here, in this unique meeting point, the canonic cultural assets of my people flourished, grew, and took shape, including a commentary of the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew poetry, Hebrew grammar, Jewish law, Talmud, Kabballah and Jewish philosophy, science, medicine, astronomy and geography. There is not one field of Jewish creativity that does not have an entire layer of its history written here in Spain, there is not one area in which Spanish influences do not resonate to this day in spirituality and society in Israel,” said the President as he began his address.
“The relationship between our two communities has not always been harmonious,” said the President and continued, “Pogroms, murders, harassment, and public humiliation were all part of the Jews’ daily lives, both during the Golden Era and certainly in the decades after. These events peeked at the Alhambra Decree of 1492. The exile of Jews from Spain tore a hole in the long and diverse history of Jewish life and creation in Spain. This exile harmed not only the Jewish people but the Spanish people as well. The entire Jewish world changed in light of this deportation. Whether we like it or not, so much of the roots of the cultural DNA of the Jewish people carries the genome of the Spanish culture. We have never had just a normal or regular relationship. Our nations are woven together in a mutual and special bond of the fruits and effects of many centuries.
“The special relationship between our countries isn’t just a sentiment of the past. Even today, there is more that binds us than divides us,” the President continued. “In recent years, and especially after the Arab Spring, a spring that turned into a winter, we see once again the difficulty in establishing the rule of democracy in many of the states around us. With our own eyes we see how democratic freedoms are more difficult to institute and even more so to implement.”
“Spain and Israel are two very young democratic states, and with this comes great strength. Two democracies that face trials and tribulations, abroad and at home, and are capable of doing so. The friendship between Israel and Spain is deep and longstanding. Spain is one country for us, one sovereign entity, and the problems it faces these days are internal. Our relations with all the citizens of Spain are dear to us, and we pray that the current challenge will be solved through understanding.”
The President continued, “On both sides of the Mediterranean, we stand as a beacon of those values; values of democracy, values of equality and freedom, values of tolerance and peace. The power not to give up the basic principles of liberal democracy also characterizes our common path in the war on terror. Many democracies respond to murderous terror, anti-nationalist waves, with anti-democratic and anti-liberal legislation. Not so Spain, not so Israel.” He added, “Even after the brutal terrorist attack that hit La Ramblas in Barcelona, and even after the horrific attack at the Atocha train station, on that terrible morning in 2004 you did not shirk your commitment to the rule of law and civil rights. You were not dragged into hysteria or populism. And you are still fighting terrorism; efficiently, and with a firm hand, and you have stood guard over democracy and tolerance in Spanish society. Israeli society, the Jewish people, and the State of Israel have been struggling already for 70 years against terrorist attacks and incessant wars.
“Only two weeks ago, a Hamas terror tunnel was discovered in Israeli territory. A tunnel designed to serve terrorists on their way to murder Israeli civilians. Along with the constant need to protect the lives of our citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, we are always committed to maintaining the delicate balance between security needs, and the rights of the individual and the rule of law. We must not allow, no country can allow terrorism to enjoy victory in the destruction of democracy from within.”
The President spoke of the Madrid Conference’s role in the Israel-Palestinian peace process, and said, “Israel has always longed for peace with our neighbors. The struggle for peace became one of the forces that bound Israel and Spain in our time. Even now, when the peace process is stalled, it remains a guiding compass. We look forward to the fulfillment of this process, in the form of a peace settlement achieved through negotiations, while restoring trust between the parties. This year we will be celebrating 70 years since the establishment of the State of Israel, and 100 years since the Balfour Declaration which recognized the right of the Jewish people to create a national home. Unfortunately even 70 years on from its establishment Israel still faces threats to its very existence.”
The President stressed, “Iranian threats to destroy Israel cannot be tolerated”, and added, “Especially when such voices emanate from a country which is the number one exporter of murderous global terror, and is responsible for the instability in Syria, in Lebanon, in Iraq, and across the region. We have a clear expectation from Israel’s friends across the world to choose a side, not to accept attempts again to eradicate the Jewish people, neither by deeds or words.”
On the issue of the Barcelona Conference and the process that was damaged due to the refusal of countries to cooperate with Israel, the President said, “I believe that we must not let politics hold back cooperation, to stand in the way of the will and the ability of all of us to be good to each other. I expect Spain to continue to be a voice that emphasizes the importance of cooperation, a voice that opposes boycotts. In this house too, there are those who criticize –sometimes harshly– Israeli policy. But there must be a barrier between criticism and a boycott. Anyone who tries to harm the State of Israel by means of boycotts and delegitimization, is personally sabotaging the chances of ever reaching a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and will find themselves on the wrong side of history. There are many who speak about Israel without knowing a single fact about it and having never visited. Israel, much like Spain, and perhaps even to a greater extent, is a diverse society. Every fifth citizen in Israel is Arab. We don’t see this heterogeneity as a weakness but as a strength. For us, a diverse society is an important component of our human capital. I invite you all to come visit Israel and see it for yourselves, understand it in a deeper context. I have no doubt that you will be surprised.”
He continued, “We cannot leave the dream of the Mediterranean as a region for cultural and social cooperation as a utopian dream. The Mediterranean is considered by so many as an escape route, such as those refugees from Africa and Syria. Horrifically, too many have also lost their lives in the sea. Together, Israel and Spain can create a different reality. We have the ability to build strong and brave bridges together, between the two sides of the Mediterranean and even today turn the dream into reality.”
The President finished by speaking of celebration of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries 30 years earlier, between Israel’s Ninth President and then Prime Minister, the late Shimon Peres, and then Prime Minister of Spain, Felipe González. “These relations were warmly affirmed yesterday at the reception of His Majesty the King, a friend of Israel, beloved by the Spanish and Israeli peoples. We must realize the unique potential inherent in our relationship. A relationship based on shared values and vision, along with ability and power. We should not settle for a normal, banal relationship between us. We must establish extraordinary relations between Spain and Israel, special relations. Our common path has a glorious past and a future that can be no less exciting, fascinating and magnificent. I thank you for your warm welcome.”