President Reuven Rivlin.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
When President Reuven Rivlin welcomed Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Wednesday, he reminded him that when he had last hosted him two and a half years ago, the president had been Speaker of the Knesset and the prime minister had been the leader of the Czech Opposition in his country’s parliament.
The important thing said Rivlin, who has experienced his own ups and downs in politics, is to stay on the wheel. “Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. But you must stay on the wheel -and you did.”
Sobotka who was accompanied by a 14 members delegation that included eight government ministers and Czech ambassador designate Ivo Schwarz, who will present his credentials to Rivlin next week, plus a large media contingent, said he remembered his previous visit well, because it coincided with an exhibition in the Knesset marking the 70th anniversary of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, who had been the Nazi governor of occupied Czechoslovakia and the main architects of the final solution to the Jewish problem. He had been impressed because Heydrich’s assassination is such a significant factor in contemporary Czech history.
In the Czech Republic today he said, there are still veterans who were members of the Czech underground resistance forces during the Nazi occupation, but unfortunately they do not receive sufficient recognition for their heroism.
Rivlin told Sabotka that Israel sees him as “an important friend” both in his previous and current roles, and emphasized their mutual commitment to democratic values.
He also noted that Czech President Milos Zeman had telephoned him last week to offer condolences following the murder by terrorists of four rabbis and a Druse policeman.
Rivlin recalled that he was still a boy when the State of Israel was declared and that Czechoslovakia had come to Israel’s assistance providing guns that other countries had declined to provide when Israel was fighting for its very existence.
“That is something that no Israeli can forget,” said Rivlin.
Sobotka characterized the government to government meeting in Jerusalem as a continuation of the good relations that span nearly seven decades. The two closest allies of the Czech Republic he said, are Slovakia and Israel. He described the meeting with Israeli counterparts as “very constructive” and looked forward to enhancing relations at both political and economic levels, saying that there was a lot of room for cooperation in innovation, research and development.