Reuven Rivlin (C-R) and George Weah (C-L).
(photo credit: GPO)
It was inevitable that football would come into the discussion when President Reuven Rivlin, who lives and breathes the sport, welcomed Liberian President George Manna Weah, who arrived at the President’s Residence with a large delegation of ministers and aides.
Weah is a former international football star, considered to be among the best of Africa’s players.
Rivlin told him that he had seen him play in 2000 in the Football Association Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, when he was playing for the Chelsea Football Club, which defeated Aston Villa 1-0. Rivlin had also followed Weah’s career when he played for Manchester City.
Weah said that when he was still playing football, he had met up with an Israeli team and befriended one of the players, whom he told that he would love to come and play in Israel. It didn’t work out, but during his four-day visit, the two met again, and the Israeli had quipped that even if he hadn’t made it as a player in Israel, it was good that he’d come as a president.
Weah met with Rivlin at the tail end of his intensive visit that was aimed at boosting Israeli investments in Liberia. Rivlin greeted him by saying that Weah’s visit was a blessing because he’d brought the rain for which Jews pray three times a day.
Rivlin also thanked Weah for Liberia’s support at the United Nations in November 1947, when the State of Israel was voted into existence.
As he does with all African dignitaries, Rivlin told Weah that Israel would like to regain its observer status at the African Union and to co-operate more with Africa in general.
He made a point of saying that Israel is willing to share the know-how that it has amassed in many spheres.
Rivlin explained the current stalemate situation in the peace process with the Palestinians, and the existential threats that Israel faces from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.
Weah, who invited Rivlin to come to Liberia, said that like Israel, his country has also experienced war. The only way to peace and stability, he said, is through dialogue.
As far as Israel is concerned, Weah said that Liberia is “excited to rekindle relations,” and believes that Israel can be of great help in Liberia’s development.
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