Israel is a beacon of democracy that protects Europe and the entire world from the dangers of Iran, Islamic State and a radicalized Middle East, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis on Monday.
“When you look at the Middle East there isn’t one country, a beacon of freedom, of democracy, of human rights, that protects not only itself, but by so doing protects everyone else, including Europe.
“It is this basic understanding that we want to impart to our European friendship,” Netanyahu said. The two men made brief statements to the press at the start of their meeting in Netanyahu’s office.
The prime minister told Iohannis that he appreciated Romania’s longstanding support for Israel and its strong stand against anti-Semitism.
This is particularly important at a time when the Jewish people and the State of Israel are persistently slandered. Israel “is being accused of, falsely accused of, so many things,” Netanyahu said.
He noted that on International Women’s Day, Israel would be attacked for its treatment of women by states that enslave its female citizens.
Israel, in contrast, “gives freedom – full equal rights – not only to women but to minorities, gays, everyone. So there is an era of absurdity about [these accusations],” Netanyahu said.
In an allusion to the Holocaust, he said, “We have seen in the previous century that absurd slander can become horrible tragedies."
“In that sense the stance of Romania against anti-Semitism and also with Israel in European and International forums is much appreciated,” Netanyahu said.
Iohannis spoke warmly as well about his country’s relationship with Israel. “We celebrate this year, 68 years of uninterrupted diplomatic relations,” he said.
Romanian authorities are very firm in fighting any form of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, Iohannis said. Better education is the best way to fight this phenomenon, he said.
Israel is the 10th country Iohannis has visited since taking office in 2014. He and Netanyahu held a one-on-one meeting for half-anhour before holding a larger working lunch.
Earlier in the morning, Iohannis met with President Reuven Rivlin and pledged Romania’s solidarity with Israel in the battle against terrorism, anti-Semitism, racism and hatred.
Both Iohannis and Rivlin made the point that on Tuesday, March 8, Romania takes over the presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an intergovernmental organization founded in 1998 at the initiative of Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson.
Romania has been a member of the IHRA and its predecessor the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research since 2004.
Romania has also acknowledged its own role in the dark days of the Holocaust.
In welcoming Iohannis, Rivlin noted that Romania, unlike other former Communist countries, had an unbroken diplomatic relationship with Israel.
Romania was among the first countries to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel in June 1948.
Iohannis said that as good as the relationship has been over the past 69 years, during this visit he wanted to focus not only on the past but on the future and the enhancement of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.
Both presidents spoke of the need to intensify cooperation in the spheres of politics, health, economics, scientific and technological research, cyber, culture and defense strategies.
Rivlin, in reference to Iran-sponsored terrorism, said that only a week earlier, there were again declarations from Iran promoting Israel’s demise.
Iohannis said Romania attaches special importance to its relations with Israel and that Israel’s uncompromised security is important to Romania, just as the fight against terrorism is one of Romania’s strategic priorities in its aim to contribute to peace in the world.
He saw great potential in the ongoing relationship between the two countries.
Iohannis, and his wife, Carmen, arrived in Israel on Sunday for a six-day visit. Iohannis will also visit the Knesset and meet with its speaker Yuli Edelstein and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Romanian president will also go to the Western Wall, the Dead Sea and Masada.