President Shimon Peres is due to leave Israel on Tuesday on a week-long visit to
Brussels, Paris and Strasburg aimed at strengthening Jerusalem’s strategic ties
Israel has increasingly become the target of criticism in
Europe, and Peres hopes to ameliorate this negative attitude through meetings
with European leaders and a historic address to the European Parliament in
However, on Monday, Peres focused on setting an example for
the local community, rather than the international one, by taking a hand in Good
Deeds Day. The president spent the day promoting Shalva, the Jerusalem-based
association for mentally and physically challenged children.
13,000 Jerusalemites participated in 250 community service projects on Monday,
with the municipality honoring Good Deeds Day by dedicating a five-kilometer
extension to the Rail Trail bike path.
Among the leaders whom Peres is
scheduled to meet during his European tour are Belgian Prime Minister Elio de
Rupo, French President Francois Hollande, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevniev,
President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, President of the European
Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Council Herman Van
Rompuy, NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen and OECD secretary-general
Angel Gurria among others.
Late on Tuesday, together with Crown Prince
Philippe of Belgium and Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, Peres will
participate in a ceremony honoring Righteous Among the Nations and will bestow
decorations on eleven Belgian citizens who risked their lives to save Jews
during the Holocaust.
In the evening he will be hosted by the Jewish
community of Brussels and will deliver an address on the need to upgrade the
bonds between Diaspora Jewry and Israel.
The Holocaust will again figure
into his visit on Tuesday when he attends the official opening of an exhibition
in Brussels marking the 70th anniversary of the rescue of Bulgarian Jewry. Both
Peres and Plevniev will deliver speeches at the event.
In the course of
his many meetings and public addresses throughout the week, Peres will discuss
economic policies and the manner in which global companies can take the people
of the Middle East out of the cycle of poverty. He will also emphasize the
seriousness of the Iranian nuclear threat, the killing spree in Syria and the
instability that is plaguing Lebanon.
While in Paris, Peres will also
visit the families of those killed in the terrorist attack in Toulouse last
Peres will not be the first Israeli president to address the
Chaim Herzog has that distinction, having done so 28
years ago. However, at the time, the EU only had ten member states, while today
it comprises 27 nations.