GEORGIA’S PRIME MINISTER Bidzina Ivanishvili370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The world should work together to ensure Israel can live in peace, Georgian
Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili told President Shimon Peres Monday after
arriving in the country for a two-day visit.
Ivanishvili went ahead with
his visit despite last week’s decision by Foreign Ministry workers – engaged in
a five-month old work dispute – to no longer deal in any manner with the visits
of foreign dignitaries.
A number of ministry workers protested outside
the President’s Residence against what they said was the use of Israel Security
Agency (Shin Bet) officials to break the strike and provide logistics for the
As a result of the sanctions, Ivanishvili’s convoy was held up
briefly at the airport, and Israel’s envoy to Georgia, Yuval Fuchs, was unable
to accompany the prime minister on his trip, the first beyond his immediate
neighborhood and Europe since winning elections in October 2012.
apologized personally to Ivanishvili and his Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze,
who is joining him, for any inconvenience caused by the work sanctions, and for
not joining them on the trip. Fuchs said the sanctions did not reflect on the
importance Israel attributes to the bilateral ties.
The Georgian leaders
said they understood, though admitted they have never heard of this type of
Ivanishvili, who was met at the airport by Deputy Foreign
Minister Ze’ev Elkin, is scheduled to meet Monday with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu. Ivanishvili, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post
in Tbilisi two
weeks ago, said he was interested in developing a “strategic” relationship with
Israel, and expressed great interest in attracting Israeli and Jewish
businessmen to his country.
He will also take part during his visit in a
Georgian-Israeli business forum in Tel Aviv, as well as meet with
representatives of the Georgian Jewish community living in Israel.
the bilateral issues, the Georgian delegation is expected to raise the issue of
starting a process whereby Georgians visiting Israel will no longer require
visas, just as Israelis traveling to Georgia do not need visas. The delegation
is also expected to brief the Israelis on the ongoing investigation into the
failed terrorist attack last year on an Israeli embassy worker in
In addition to his foreign minister, Ivanishvili was also
accompanied by his diaspora, economy and agriculture ministers.
is in the midst of transition from a presidential to a parliamentary system of
government, which is set to be completed in October. In the meantime Ivanishvili
is in a transitional “co-habitation” with his fierce political rival, President
Ivanishvili, in his meeting with Peres, said that
while the government of Georgia respects all its citizens, it has a special
sympathy for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Ivanishvili said he grew
up in the midst of a large Jewish community in Tbilisi, and that everyone there
lived in a peaceful coexistence.
Peres called Ivanishvili a true friend
of the Jewish people and acknowledged how well the Jewish community of Georgia
has fared over the centuries, as well as the strong ties that Georgian
immigrants to Israel have to their country of birth.