President Rivlin meeting Israeli heads of diplomatic missions in Europe, 10 December 2018..
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
The changing face of Europe is of concern to Israeli officialdom on the home front, and even more to Israeli diplomats stationed in countries across the European continent.
Many of them along with colleagues serving in North America, Egypt and Asia met with President Rivlin on Monday evening, and knew from personal experience that he was not merely mouthing platitudes, when he said that they were on the frontlines of Israel’s relations with the world.
Some privately admitted to feeling uncomfortable with the upsurge of neo-Fascist and blatant antisemitic tendencies, especially in cases where officials and their parties or movements claim to be pro-Israel yet spew hatred against Jews.
Some ambassadors think that rather than try to reason with radicals, it would be in Israel and Jewish communities’ interests, to court Europeans who are appalled by the diminishing of pluralism and western democratic values.
The ambassadors are due to discuss the radical right, neo-Fascism, antisemitism and other forms of xenophobia and extremism at their upcoming session on Thursday.
“The Europe we knew changed before our eyes, with new political movements” said Rivlin. “It is not the Europe we [once] knew.”
He emphasized that not only do people vent expressions of antisemitism, but also are Holocaust deniers.
In the same spirit, Rivlin, a seventh generation sabra, admitted that Israel is still affected by the trauma of the Holocaust, but denied that the State of Israel is compensation for the Holocaust.
It is a theory that he cannot and will not accept.
“The State of Israel is not compensation for the Holocaust,” he insisted, “but the return of the Jewish People to its historic homeland.”
Despite disputes that successive governments of Israel have had with EU policies, Rivlin advocated that dialogue with Europe must continue.
In his opinion, Europe is more prepared to listen to Israel today than it was in the past.
Disagreements with certain European countries regarding relations with the Palestinians should not impede Israel’s relations with those countries, he said, noting that Europe is Israel’s biggest trading partner.
Despite this extensive cooperation, European antisemitism, extremism and racism are often not far from the surface. “We must say no to antisemitism and no to neo-Fascism,” he said.
The president suggested that ambassadors use this as a tool in their efforts to win Israel friends, in order to “build a better future, we have to remember the past and to remind world leaders of history,” he added.
Rivlin also referred to relations with the US, which he said were the best they had ever, been, but added that Israel is indebted to every US administration.
The relationship has always been bipartisan, and Rivlin suggested that on this basis Israel should maintain contact with the Democrats. He also stressed the importance of repairing relations with the American Jewish community.
“We have to return to being one family,” he said.
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