Monday, 6 November 2017 / 17 Cheshvan 5778
President Rivlin meets Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Brey of Spain
(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)
President Reuven Rivlin continued his state visit to Spain this afternoon (Tuesday), with a working meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Brey, at his office. Also attending the meeting was Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel, who was accompanying the President as part of the official delegation.
With the 30th anniversary of the establishment of relations between Israel and Spain, the President emphasized the historical roots and uniqueness of the relationship between the two countries. The President thanked the Prime Minister for his warm welcome and expressed his appreciation for the cooperation in the various fields between Israel and Spain. He stressed that Israel held a sincere desire to preserve and deepen existing ties both in security and in the fields of economy and innovation. “The secret of our relationship rests on a strong bond not only between states, but also between peoples,” said the President. “The historical family roots of many Israelis are planted here,” he added.
The President expressed his condolences over the terror that struck Spain last August, and stressed that the entire free world must join forces to ensure the eradication of terrorism. “Terrorism and religious extremism are a global threat that affects all of us. Unfortunately, we have experience in facing this, and are ready to contribute by all means at our disposal to combat this phenomenon.”
The President spoke with the Prime Minister about the Spanish Government's position against the campaign to boycott Israel, and noted such efforts were, “infected with anti-Semitic elements”. He asked the Prime Minister to promote legislation in order to prevent similar steps in the future. He added, “It is allowed, of course, to protest - but it cannot be allowed to cross the border into boycotts.” In this context, the President said that Israel would be pleased to see Spain change its voting pattern in international fora in a way that would express the good bilateral relations between the two countries. “Decisions are made in international fora that undermine integrity and intelligent thought.”
“I warmly recall to you,” said the President, “that the King of Spain is also known as the King of Jerusalem, and to come to UNESCO and say that there is no connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish people is not only ignorance, it is an affront to intellectual integrity. So I would request that you ensure that you are not taking part in decisions that result from unrelated political struggles.”
The President and Prime Minister went on to discuss at length the regional situation in the Middle East. The President stressed that Iran was serving as a subversive factor, leading to the establishment of a Shi’ite axis in Syria and across the entire Middle East, in an attempt to exploit the crises in the region. “The State of Israel is closely following the increasing Iranian presence in Syria and is operating according to the clear red lines we have defined.” On this subject, the President stressed that, "The terror Iran exports is a threat to the entire world,” and explained that the Iranian hold on Yemen through the Houthis, had the potential to harm the international trade routes, which would carry high risk also for Europe.
On the issue of the nuclear deal, the President told the Prime Minister that Israel and the Western world could not allow a country like Iran, that supported terror and made calls at the UN to destroy Israel, to have nuclear capabilities. He stressed to the Prime Minister, “We must work together to prevent this at all costs. The current agreement does not benefit Israel or Europe, and even endangers the security and stability of the region,” the President said, and added that were the agreement not to change, “It must be ensured, that all the clauses of the agreement be strictly adhered to, and even improved for the day after it expires.”
The President made clear to the Prime Minister that, “Israel will know how to defend itself,” and added, “but anyone who supported the agreement with Iran must ensure that its leaders receive the necessary warnings both through sanctions and additional measures”. The President spoke to the Prime Minister about the situation in Lebanon, and stressed that Hezbollah, which he noted was “an extension of Iran,” was acting under civilian guise at the risk of the local population. He also made clear that Hezbollah consistently violated UN Security Council resolutions, and was strengthening its hold on, and cooperation with, the Lebanese Army. The President referred to the production of higher grade weapons infrastructure in Lebanon, and made it clear that the current situation could not continue, and would even bring disaster to Lebanon if not stopped. In this context, the two leaders discussed the resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister, and the President noted this was, “a direct continuation of the Iranian takeover of the institutions of the Lebanese state, which ought to disturb Europe and the entire free world no less than the State of Israel.”
The two also discussed relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the situation in Gaza. The President stressed that the State of Israel expected the return of the fallen IDF soldiers, and the Israeli civilians held in the Gaza Strip and added, “Hamas in Gaza is violating Israeli sovereignty by building attack tunnels that cross Israeli territory with the aim of harming Israeli civilians in a way that Israel will not be able to leave unanswered”. The President said that at the same time, the State of Israel was working to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, but that unfortunately Hamas was diverting resources intended to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip for use in a military buildup, and in the cynical exploitation of civilians for terrorist activities.
After the meeting, a cooperation agreement was signed in the presence of the President and the Spanish Prime Minister, renewing the historic agreement signed between the two countries in 1987. The agreement was signed by the Israeli and Spanish ambassadors, and included cooperation in various fields and mutual understandings in issues of education, culture, science, as well as scholarships for students and lecturers. The agreement also included a declaration of intent to work together on education against racism and anti-Semitism as well as on Holocaust education.