Rivlin addresses Spanish parliament, highlights democratic values, tolerance

"Spain and Israel are both young democracies...facing trials and turmoil abroad and at home," President Reuven Rivlin told Spanish lawmakers.

President Rivlin signs a guest book at the Spanish Parliament, November 2017 (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
President Rivlin signs a guest book at the Spanish Parliament, November 2017
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Wrapping up his visit to Spain, President Reuven Rivlin made a stop at the country's parliament building where he gave a speech to the Spanish Congress and Senate on Tuesday.
Rivlin and his wife Nechama were hosted by King Felipe and Queen Letizia at the Royal Palace in Madrid for a state dinner on Monday night. During his visit to parliament, Rivlin was awarded a presidential medal and a collection of antique books from the Library of the Senate.
"Spain for us is one country...and we pray that the current challenge is solved with understanding,'' he told lawmakers.
Israel does not recognize Catalonia, the northwestern region of Spain that recently declared independence from the country after a contentious referendum, as a separate state.
Elaborating on Israel's relations with Spain, Rivlin said that he hoped the country would ''continue to be a voice that emphasizes the importance of cooperation, a voice that opposes boycotts.
''Anyone who tries to harm the State of Israel by means of boycotts is personally sabotaging the chances of ever reaching a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and will find themselves on the wrong side of history.''
While his address was largely self-congratulatory, telling lawmakers what they wanted to hear, his words only reached about half the elected officials who make up the Congress and Senate were present. Outside the parliament during his speech, there was a pro-Palestinian demonstration, at which protestors held banners on stating in Enlish: ''You are Zionists, not Children of Israel.  Stop Genocide in Palestine...Reuven Rivlin, nobody wants you to be in Spain.'' The protestors asserted that Rivlin's proper place was in prison for his crimes against the Palestinians.
''Spain and Israel are both young democracies...facing trials and turmoil abroad and at home,'' he told lawmakers.
The president highlighted ideals of democracy, tolerance and peace throughout his address. He likened Spain's recent bouts with terrorism to Israel's long history with the same challenge. In August, 15 people were killed when a man drove a truck through the well-known Las Ramblas promenade. The same day, five terrorists drove a vehicle into a crowd of pedestrians in the seaside city of Cambrils; while the car ramming did not cause any fatalities, one of the men then stabbed a woman to death.
Rivlin's visit to Spain marks 30 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries and 100 years since the reestablishment of the Jewish community in Spain, over 400 years after Spain's Jews were expelled from the country in 1492.
While commending the good relations that now exist between Israel and Spain, did not let the Spaniards off the hook for the cruelty to which Jews were subjected during the period before and during the Inquisition.
“The relationship between our two communities has not always been harmonious,” he said. “Pogroms, murders, harassment, and public humiliation were all part of the Jews’ daily lives, both during the Golden Era and certainly in the decades after. These events peaked at the Alhambra Decree of 1492. The exile of Jews from Spain tore a hole in the long and diverse history of Jewish life and creation in Spain. This exile harmed not only the Jewish people but the Spanish people as well. The entire Jewish world changed in light of this deportation.”
On a more positive note, Rivlin referred to the 1991 Madrid Conference and its impact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, emphasizing that Israel has always wanted peace with her neighbors. Even though the peace process is currently stalled, he said, the Madrid Conference remains a guiding compass.
During his visit, Rivlin also celebrated the opening of an Israeli-Spanish economic forum. In his speech at the Spanish Manufacturer's Association, he highlighted Spanish-Israeli trade, noting that Spain has ''one of the strongest economies in the world,'' and called for the establishment of a Spanish-Israeli research and development center.