Rivlin with the ambassadors
Rivlin with the ambassadorsAmos Ben Gershom/GPO

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday addressed Israeli ambassadors to Europe, North America, the Middle East and international organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ annual Heads of Missions Conference at Beit HaNasi.

Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yuval Rotem also spoke to the gathering.

The president opened his remarks by thanking the Israeli foreign service and told the ambassadors, “This meeting is an opportunity to thank you all for your efforts and your dedication. No country is an island. The relations you create, your diplomatic efforts, the partnerships, the links with science, arts and culture, the economic bridges you build, make Israel more open and make Israel safer.”

“To a great extent, thanks to you, the State of Israel is known in the world and enjoys recognition and legitimacy. Statesmanship is a profession of crises and opportunities. At its best, I believe, statesmanship plays an even more important role, turning crises into opportunities – and we have a surfeit of both crises and opportunities,” the president added.

Speaking about the situation in Europe, Rivlin said, “Israel wants and must remain, first and foremost, a national home and a safe haven for the Jewish people.”

“It seems like Europe, too, is increasingly looking for the language of nations, and this has both positive and negative implications. The differences between us and some of our European partners on the question of our relations with the Palestinians need not block all cooperation between us. Despite the difficulties and disappointments we have experienced in our relations with Europe, Israel cannot give up on Europe. Europe is geographically and culturally close; our values are close. Europe is our largest trading partner, and we face the fight against terrorism and extremism together,” he continued.

“On the other hand, the return of nationalist discourse to Europe has negative aspects. That discourse is often accompanied by anti-Semitism and xenophobia and that poses problems for Jewish communities and the State of Israel. We must not show any tolerance for expressions of anti-Semitism. We reject anti-Semitism, even if it takes on different guises, hiding behind the fig-leaf of supporting and loving the State of Israel.”

President Rivlin spoke about relations between Israel and the United States, saying, “I want to send my thanks from here to the American administration for its uncompromising support for Israeli security and for the new channels that have begun to develop with countries in the Middle East thanks to American support. We will continue to work with the administration. We will also continue to work to maintain and develop relations with all parts of American society and the political system.”

The president added, “Israel must maintain within bipartisan consensus. We must devote more effort and thought to this. And I say this because I think not enough has been done to maintain and develop our relations with the Democratic Party and with liberal voices in America. I also think that it is crucially important to rebuild and improve the relations between Israeli leadership and the global Jewish community, first and foremost all streams of Jewish life in the United States. They are the ‘fifth tribe’ of our people.”

Talking about the IDF’s Operation Northern Shield, the president emphasized that the discovery of offensive tunnels shows the depth of Iranian involvement in Lebanon.

“Iran funds and directs Hizballah. Iran funds and directs the Shi’ite militias in Syria. Iran supports Hamas and Islamic Jihad across the Middle East. Iran destabilizes the region. And time after time, Israel faces the Iranian threat and challenges Iranian hegemony.”

He told the ambassadors, “Your work in this field, across the world, is critical. We need not fear explaining Israel’s position time after time. In particular, we need to work with the Europeans who try to give the Iranians a lifeline to get around the nuclear deal and US sanctions while, all the time, Iran exports terrorism, continues with its missile program and even carries out acts of terrorism in Europe itself. Only a unified international effort can stop the Iranians.”