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At start of his European visit, Israeli President Rivlin talks with his German counterpart on Iran, ICC and the Palestinian issue




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Israel's President Rivlin began his visit to Europe in Berlin, meeting the President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier, together with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi. Picture by Amos Ben Gershom, GPO.

“The international community must stand together, speaking out strongly and without compromise against Iran’s nuclear plan and its support for terrorist groups that threaten Israel and the stability of the region,” said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Berlin where he started Tuesday (16 March) a diplomatic visit to three European countries where he will hold meetings on the dangers of Hezbollah’s rising power, the intensification of Iran’s nuclear project and the International Criminal Court, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.  

Rivlin, who is accompanied by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, began his visit with a working meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during which he stressed Israel’s appreciation for Germany’s commitment to Israel’s security, to regional stability and the important strategic relations between them.

Speaking about Iran, the Israeli president said it was using “nuclear blackmail” to obtain relaxation of the economic sanctions. He added that Israel attaches great importance to setting out red lines for Iranian conduct that will prevent further development of its nuclear program.

The president also raised the recent decision of the International Criminal Court to open investigations against the State of Israel regarding alleged war crimes. He emphasized that Israel sees the chief prosecutor’s decision in a very poor light. ‘’For us, this is a scandalous decision,’’ he said.

Rivlin thanked his counterpart for Germany’s stance with Israel against the decision of the Court, saying: “The State of Israel is a strong, Jewish and democratic state which knows how to defend itself and how to investigate itself when required. We are proud of our soldiers, our sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters. They protect us from our enemies and we will protect them from this decision. The State of Israel will not accept claims against the implementation of her right and duty to protect her citizens.”

“We trust that our European friends will stand by us in the important fight on the misuse of the International Criminal Court against our soldiers and civilians,’’ the Israeli president said.


The president also spoke about the Palestinian issue, saying that Palestinian attempts to ‘legalise’ the conflict would lead to further polarization between the sides and the continuation of the crisis.’’

“We cannot expect that confidence-building measures and improvement in our relations when one side is advocating criminal investigations of the other side’s civilians in a foreign court,” he said.

He added that COVID-19 has proved that borders are artificial and that cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians is crucial since our lives are inextricably linked together.

During the meeting, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi gave a briefing on a number of security issues, particularly Iran and Lebanon, and elaborated on the failings of the nuclear agreement with Iran. He spoke about regional challenges emanating from Iran, from Syria to Yemen, how Lebanon and Hezbollah are ignoring UN Security Council Resolution 1701, and the implications of precision missiles trained on Israel.!1&btvi=1&fsb=1&xpc=hBzCA22gms&p=https%3A//

The Chief of Staff also raised the issue of Israeli soldiers missing in action and the implications of the recent decision by the ICC ‘’which represent a significant challenge to democratic states’ ability to engage terrorist forces that hide behind civilian populations.’’

“I can say with confidence that IDF officers and soldiers do everything, and have done everything over the years and in all operations, not to harm innocent civilians,’’ Kochavi said.

‘’I have seen it with my own eyes many times as a brigade and divisional commander, in the alleyways of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. When there was a suspicion that innocent civilians were harmed, we knew how to investigate our actions thoroughly and, when necessary, those responsible faced the law,” he added.

During a joint statement, German President Steinmeier stressed that ‘’this is the first visit by a president to Germany this year.’’ ‘’Our last meeting here in Berlin was a little over a year ago, before the virus closed everything down,’’ he noted.

‘’At that meeting, we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz together in Jerusalem, Auschwitz and Berlin. For me, as the president of Germany, those were such moving moments that will always remain in my memory. During the last year, we have continued to draw lessons from the past, even when we have not met. In particular, we have spoken about fighting antisemitism, xenophobia and racism.’’

Steinmeier congratulated President Rivlin on Israel’s vaccination drive ‘’that has been seen here in Germany with great appreciation and respect, not only because of its speed but also because of the efficiency of the process.’’

He added: ‘’Since our last conversations, many things have changed. Israel has signed normalization agreements with many neighbors and I see these agreements as nothing less than historic. The president and his delegation presented us with their concerns about the continued nuclear arming of Iran, as well as its missile program. The previous American administration’s policy did not, we believe, support positive developments and we hope that we can bring about change in the future with the new administration and our European neighbors.’’

On Wednesday and Thursday, President Rivlin and the IDF Chief of Staff will travel to Austria and France for meetings with the two leaders of the two countries, Alexander Van der Bellen and Emmanuel Macron.

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