Rivlin meets with Macron

March 19, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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On the last day of his visit to Europe, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin departed for Paris where he held a diplomatic meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France.

Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO

Before the meeting, the president was received with an official honour guard by the French president at the entrance to the Palais de l’Elysee. The presidents began their meeting with lunch and continued to their diplomatic meeting where they were joined by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi joined the presidents’ meeting, briefing President Macron on security affairs which focused on concerns about Hezbollah’s military build-up in Lebanon.

During their meeting, the president expressed his deep appreciation for their personal friendship and mutual commitment to the special relations between the countries. President Rivlin thanked President Macron for fighting antisemitism and for the commitment of France’s leaders to Holocaust remembrance and protecting the Jewish community.

“Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has encouraged antisemitism, and we have seen too many incidents of accusing Jews of spreading the virus,” said the president. “Adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism in Nice and Paris are very important steps, and I hope that other cities will follow them.”

Speaking about Hezbollah’s military build-up, supported by Iran, the president said that Israel hopes France will continue to take part in the international efforts to ensure that the Lebanese government makes the necessary reforms to weaken Hezbollah’s position in the Lebanese political system and in the institutions of governance.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said, “From a security perspective, Lebanon has become a hostage in the hands of Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, has lost control over its security policy and, as evidence of that, is not implementing UNSCR 1701. Hezbollah has thousands of missiles and rockets deployed in the heart of civilian populations and is deliberately aiming them in order to harm Israeli civilians. The IDF will do everything to prevent this. We have thousands of targets in Lebanon, and that list grows every week. We also have extensive capabilities with which to destroy them. We will not hesitate to attack with power if ordered, in any place where there are armaments, combatants or infrastructure that supports the enemy. The Lebanese government is responsible for changing the situation. The government and the Lebanese state will bear full responsibility for any Hezbollah action against Israeli citizens.”

In his statement to the press, the president said, “Just over a years ago, we stood together in Jerusalem together with dozens of leaders from around the world. Together, we pledged to continue to carry the torch of Holocaust remembrance and fighting antisemitism, hatred and violence. In the battle against antisemitism and xenophobia, there is no room for silence, for apathy, for pretending not to see. The leadership of France today, led by you, Mr President is truly committed to fighting antisemitism and protecting the security of the Jewish communities in France. We are true partners in this campaign, and I would like to express our deep appreciation for that,” said the president, noting other areas of cooperation between the two countries.”

The president said that the Abraham Accords bring genuine hope to the peoples of the region as a whole, saying, “It feels like the voices of moderation, pragmatism and peace are heard more and more. If we can strengthen those voices, the Middle East and the Mediterranean will enjoy regional cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, infrastructure and tourism which will bring progress and prosperity to us all.”

Speaking about the dangers of Iranian military build-up, the president said, “The vision of partnership and peace will only come through determined opposition to Iran’s radical and aggressive stance that is expressed through its nuclear program and support for terrorist organizations. We have no territorial dispute or conflict with the Lebanese people and we hope that our friends, including France, will continue to hold the Lebanese government responsible for terrorism emanating from its territory. I hope that the winds of change blowing through the region will reach the Palestinian arena and help restore confidence between our peoples.”

On the subject of the International Criminal Court, the president said, “The aspiration for justice was and remains a meaningful characteristic of the State of Israel and Israeli society. Jews and Israelis, motivated by the horrors of the Second World War, were at the forefront of the establishment of today’s international legal bodies, including the International Criminal Court itself. International law plays a central role in Israeli decision-making, even when that requires painful and difficult decisions during active conflict. The Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, is open to all Israeli citizens, Palestinians and human rights organizations seeking judicial review of government decisions. But we will never apologize for the right and the duty to protect our citizens from all threats to their security. We have seen the damage that politicization has done to UN human rights bodies, and see the damage being done to the ICC through political pressure. Our hand is extended in peace to anyone who genuinely seeks it, but any attempt to pressure Israel through international bodies and the cynical political exploitation of international law is doomed to fail and will contribute nothing to improving relations between us and the Palestinians.”

The president concluded his remarks by saying, “My friend, President Macron, if there is one lesson we have learned from the coronavirus pandemic that we are confronting now, it is that when faced with complex challenges, we must work together as broadly as possible. Thank you for your genuine friendship over the years. I hope we are able to extend and deepen it further. Thank you.”

President Macron thanked the president for his remarks and said that he was very happy that the president had come, particularly at this difficult time. He added, “I am welcoming a friend today. The friendship between us has grown stronger in recent years through our visits to each other. I wanted to thank you, Mr. President, for this personal connection and for the work we have done together. I have to say that when I greeted you, I had fond memories of seeing you here on your state visit, of you and your wife arriving here. That is a moment that stays in our hearts. I do not forget how you have welcomed us to Israel: your dedication to history, to cooperation, to mutual and reciprocal concern, and an ability to work together in so many areas.”

“We discussed the health situation in France and Israel, the fight that we are leading, all of us, against the pandemic. We also had in-depth discussions on major regional issues. And I was able to reiterate once again France’s unwavering attachment to the security of Israel, and our determination to remain committed, at its side, to guarantee regional stability. We obviously discussed recent nuclear developments in Iran. And we shared, I want to be very clear here, our concern about this. And I repeat very clearly, there is no ambiguity in this regard, Iran must stop making a most serious nuclear situation worse by continuing to violate the Vienna Agreement. The security of the entire region is at stake. Iran, in this regard, must do what is expected of it and behave responsibly. France is fully mobilized in favor of relaunching a credible process which will make it possible to find a solution to this crisis; that is, to return to control, to supervision of nuclear programs, but to include, as we have been advocating since 2017, control of Iran’s ballistic activity in the region.”

“We also discussed the situation in Lebanon. I think I can say that both of us are extremely attached to the Lebanese people. There too, we seek stability and peace and I believe that we are both convinced, that the time for testing responsibility is coming to an end, and that we will be undoubtedly required to change the approach and methods in the coming weeks, in a very clear way, because as of last August we cannot leave the Lebanese people in the situation they are in. More generally, we must work together to find answers to the security concerns of states in the region. Among the many crises that clearly affect Israel’s environment, there is Lebanon that I have just mentioned, and we must do everything to prevent the collapse of the country, and therefore accelerate the formation of a government and the necessary reforms.”

“But we also discussed the normalization of relations between Israel and various Arab States. This development is an important contribution to the stability of regional security. We must now continue this positive dynamic by making progress towards the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. France is fully mobilized to help Israelis and Palestinians to gradually find the voices of dialogue. And I want to salute here, the voice, the conscience, the role that the president has always played on this subject, which is that of a historical and political requirement to ensure the security and the constitutional stability of the State of Israel, but also the desire to take into account the human geopolitical realities of the region, as well as the question of respect. There is no alternative to political negotiation while respecting everyone’s legitimate aspirations for the recognition of their security and sovereignty. And I believe, once again, that this availability, this French belief I am referring to, only makes sense by placing oneself at the service of the stakeholders. And that any solution to this conflict can only be found by involving the stakeholders first and foremost.”

“At the end of our conversation, we discussed a subject that is close to both of our hearts – the preservation of the memory of the Shoah. I visited Yad Vashem last year, at your invitation, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps. And at a time of the disappearance of the last witnesses, we remain more determined than ever together to meet the challenges of passing this memory on. Equally strong is our commitment to continue the fight against all forms of Holocaust denial, distortion, antisemitism, the resurgence of hate speech, especially online, and all forms of racism and discrimination. Thank you again, Mr. President, dear Reuven, very dear friend, for being with us here today, for this friendship, and I want to wish you all the courage and support in the days and weeks to come. We will be by your side.”

This meeting concluded the president’s diplomatic visit to Europe at the invitation of the presidents of Germany, Austria and France. At its conclusion, the president departed and returned to Israel.

 

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