Reuven Rivlin .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Terrorism, or rather the fight against it, was the key issue on the agenda when Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel met with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on Monday, taking up their conversation where they left off when Rivlin was in Brussels last June.
Rivlin’s visit, three months after three coordinated bombings took place in Brussels, two of them at Brussels airport and one at Maelbeek Metro station, was conducted under the most stringent security precautions.
The three bombings claimed the lives of 35 people from 14 countries, including the three perpetrators who were agents of Islamic State. Three hundred people were injured. The catastrophe would have been much worse had another bomb found at the airport gone undetected.
In welcoming Michel, who arrived with a six-member delegation comprising both government and opposition members, Rivlin made the point that acts of terror are not isolated phenomena being carried out in one particular place.
Terrorism has become a global scourge, he said, “and we have to fight world terror together. Anything that happens in one part of the world impacts on the rest of the world.”
Offering Michel Israel’s top-level cooperation in the struggle against terror, Rivlin said, “Our know-how is based on the priority we give to security, and in sharing this knowhow, we are at the disposal of the world.”
There have been some troublesome areas in Israel’s relations with Belgium, such as the need for former foreign minister MK Tzipi Livni to cancel her visit to Brussels last month after prosecutors there announced they wanted to question her in regard to alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza.
But on the whole, relations have been positive. Belgium was one of the 33 countries in November 1947 that voted in favor of the United Nations resolution for the partition of Palestine; and in November 1975, voted against the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism.
Nearly 5,500 Belgian soldiers served in the eight years that Belgium was part of the UNIFIL peace-keeping forces in South Lebanon.
Belgian troops also served with UNDOF, the UN Disengagement Observer Force. But Israel was disappointed at Belgium’s willingness to recognize Palestine before the reaching of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Rivlin repeated what he had told Michel in Brussels, that there could be no progress towards ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict until confidence-building measures were in place.
Michel assured Rivlin of Belgian’s cross-parliamentary support, and said that was why his delegation was comprised of members of the administration and the opposition.
He agreed with Rivlin on the importance of global security, which he said leads to global stability and global peace.
Aside from discussing security issues with Israel, Michel said Belgium was interested in enhancing economic relations and was keen to learn more about the start-up nation.
Belgium faces a constant threat of terrorism, he said, alluding to Belgium being known as Europe’s most intensive hotbed of jihadist activity.
Rivlin, for his part was more forthcoming in calling a spade a spade, saying, “Islamic State graduates are polluting the world and many of them are found in Belgium.”
Israel is always ready to cooperate, with every effort to prevent terrorist incidents, he said.