Slovenian president empathizes with Israel's 'difficult road'

Slovenian President Janez Drnovsek, in Israel on his first visit, expressed his country's empathy with the Jewish people and the State of Israel. In a reference to the rich history of Israel and the Jewish people Drnovsek, in separate addresses at a morning reception and a luncheon hosted on Monday by President Moshe Katsav at Beit Hanassi, spoke of the Jewish contribution to humanity in religious and other spheres. "The Jewish people suffered a lot during their history," he said. "We all know how difficult this road was, and in Slovenia we feel deeply for the people of Israel whose achievements we have followed with admiration." Slovenia gained independence from Yugoslavia in June 1991 and adopted an immediately effective constitution in December of that year, establishing diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. Drnovsek said Slovenia identifies in many ways with Israel but in measured tones, he gently made it clear that Jews do not have a monopoly on suffering. "In World War II the Slovenian people also suffered. Many people died fighting Hitler's forces or in concentration camps." Drnovsek expressed sorrow for the continuing violence in the region. "After so much suffering the people of Israel deserve peace and a normal life without being afraid of sudden terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, the world is not as peaceful and normal as it should be." In his private discussions with Katsav, Drnovsek was cautiously optimistic that there might be some moderates among Hamas who could succeed in changing policy, and suggested that once they became politically active as distinct from militarily active, they would take a softer line. Katsav disabused him of this notion, pointing out that if the experience with Hizbullah is an indicator, Hamas, if anything, would become more extreme. Although the Slovenian Jewish community is only some 500, Drnovsek held separate meetings with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.