Traian Basescu yad vashem 248 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
In the immediate aftermath of the Six Days War in 1967, the Soviet Union and the Communist states of Eastern Europe severed diplomatic ties with Israel, and they did not begin to renew them until 1990.
The only exception was Romania, which permitted its Jewish population to maintain its religion and culture, allowed Jewish emigration, raised no objections to its chief rabbi traveling back and forth between Romania and Israel, refused to bow to pressures to break off relations with Israel, and, most important of all, played a pivotal role in the process that led to the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979.
President Shimon Peres alluded to these factors on Monday when welcoming Romanian President Traian Basescu to Beit Hanassi.
Peres told Basescu that his visit crowned 60 years of warm diplomatic relations between their countries, and expressed Israel's appreciation to Romania for allowing thousands of Jews to make aliya, and for its contribution to peace.
"We see Romania as a true friend of Israel," said Peres, who also remarked on Romania's commitment to education on the Holocaust and tolerance, and the fact that Romania had enabled its Jews to maintain their identity throughout the last century.
"Romania has a special place in the history and heart of this country. We have the highest regard for Romania," he said.
As a member of NATO and the European Union, Romania could have considerable influence on the way the world confronted the Iranian nuclear threat, Peres added.
He mentioned some of the great Jewish personalities who had emerged from Romania, among them writer Elie Wiesel, artist and diplomat Reuven Rubin, historian Michael Harsagor, politician Yitzhak Ben-Aharon and many others. He also noted that Romanian immigrants to Israel had been "very constructive" in the development of the country in many fields.
Basescu made it clear that just as Romania was a significant broker in paving the way for an accord between Israel and Egypt, it continued to be a player in efforts to bring peace to the region. He had made a point of meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan and the presidents of Egypt, Syria and the Palestinian Authority, he said. "We have our image of the approaches they have, and at the same time are looking to understand the approaches by different countries in the region," he said.
Basescu presented Peres with a textbook that related to the most dramatic "Holocaust realities" of Romania, and said that those nations that recognized the reality of their involvement in the Holocaust had become powerful.
In addition, Basescu gave Peres a brochure detailing a Holocaust monument now under construction in Bucharest and due to be unveiled in October.
Following his discussion with Peres, Basescu toured Yad Vashem in the morning. He returned there in the evening, following the state dinner which Peres hosted in his honor, when both presidents attented a performance by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra of Leonard Bernstein's "Kaddish" for which the libretto was written and narrated by Auschwitz and Dachau survivor Samuel Pisar.