President Reuven Rivlin said Jordan’s King Abdullah II is “a brave man who puts peace in the region at the top of his agenda,” in his address to a visiting delegation of honorary consuls at his residence on Monday.
Rivlin told the consuls, who voluntarily represent Israel abroad, that the Jordanian-Israeli peace agreement that just marked its 20th anniversary was of strategic importance to both sides.
“It is not only a peace treaty between two states, but between two peoples,” he said.
The president expressed confidence that the relationship between the two countries is capable of meeting all challenges, and added that Jordan plays a key role in the region and that its stability is important. “This is something the Western countries should also make a priority,” he said.
He was confident that under the responsible leadership of King Abdullah, Jordan will continue to play a central role in the region, he told the consuls.
Out of 77 honorary Israel consuls, many of whom are not Jewish, 45 came to Israel at their own expense, and of these 13 are from countries in which Israel has no embassy, and two, one from Nicaragua and the other from Bolivia, are from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel.
Rivlin upgraded their status to that of “Ambassadors of Israel” and “Ambassadors of Jerusalem,” acknowledging that what they are doing is a far from easy task.
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“In each of your countries, there are people who have made it their number one priority to preach hatred of Israel. They have decided that of all the problems in the world, the number one threat to humanity is the Jewish state,” he said. “This tiny, democratic country, surrounded by so many hostile nations – they want to boycott us. They want to silence our voices. They want to isolate us. Even if that means hurting the Palestinians they claim to be helping.”
“Such blind hatred can only be the result of ignorance or anti-Semitism. We must of course call out the anti-Semites. But to the others, we must show Israel is a modern country that seeks peace with its neighbors, and gives so much to the world in the fields of medicine, environment, technology, literature and more,” he said.
While the honorary consuls are defending Israel’s interests in their home countries, Rivlin said that Israel has its own role to play in building bridges and making peace.
Asked what he wanted to achieve for Israel, how Israel can at one and the same time be a democratic and Jewish state and how it can help other countries that have problems with their Muslim populations, Rivlin conceded that reconciling a Jewish state with a democratic state is a struggle because the Arab citizens of Israel say that if the country is democratic it should be as state of all its citizens.
“And we say it is our prerogative to define Israel as a Jewish state,” he said. On the other hand, there is still no consensus on what constitutes a Jewish state, which is why Israel has no constitution, Rivlin explained.
Referring to his visit the previous day to the Arab city of Kafr Kasim, where 58 years ago 47 civilians were massacred by Israeli Border Police, Rivlin said: “We have to admit that we did wrong. Till now, no one wanted to go on memorial day, but I, who am fluent in Arabic, thought I should go. Our destiny is together and we must find a way to build this country together.”
Rivlin said that he could not think of Israel being a Jewish state without being a democratic state. “If we want peace in this area, we need to have open borders,” he said. He was optimistic that once there is peace, no one will shoot rockets at Israel and no one will question Israel’s right to exist.
“We don’t have a war with Islam,” Rivlin asserted, “but with fundamentalism and with Hamas and Hezbollah which are the messengers of Iran.”
Rivlin emphasized that before anyone belongs to any religion, that person is first and foremost a human being, and this must be uppermost in dealings between people. “We all believe in the one God and He is the God of all of us,” he said.
Reminded by Honorary Consul for Gibraltar David Benaim that Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem was a game changer, Rivlin was asked by Benaim whether he would work toward a state visit to Cairo and thus be a game changer himself. Rivlin replied that Israel has to find a way to be in touch with all the leaders of the region.
Any president who wants to come to Israel will be welcome, he said, and if any of them invite him, he would be happy to accept, taking into consideration the government’s opinion.
Alejandro Orchansky, the president of the Association of Latin American and Caribbean Honorary Consuls, said that it was “an immense and indescribable honor to represent Israel.”
The encounters between honorary consuls are an example of unity despite differences of opinion, he said, declaring that they live by a policy of peaceful coexistence, “but not at the expense of security and tranquility.”
Honorary consuls face numerous and complicated situations in their countries that have been exacerbated since Operation Protective Edge, he said, especially in those countries in which Israel has no diplomatic representation. He cited hostile governments, violent demonstrations by university students and anti-Israel opinions in the media.
“The honorary consuls are always on the front line,” he said.
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