Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in the Knesset
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in the KnessetHadas Parush/Flash90

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko made a special visit to the Knesset Wednesday, as part of his official state visit to Israel. 

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) who opened the session, noted in his speech that next year Israel and Ukraine will mark 20 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between them.

”Your visit here today is a testament to our countries` warm and dynamic relationship in the international arena," he said. "Ukraine and Israel cooperate in numerous fields, including trade, science and culture." 

”Our nations share a history of more than 1,000 years," he continued. "The Hassidic movement grew in Ukraine, many Zionist leaders operated there, and Jewish art and culture flourished."

"But, unfortunately, this shared history also included several difficult periods of pogroms and the harassment of Jews, which began as early as the days of [Bohdan] Khmelnytsky in the 17th century and reached their peak during the Holocaust,” the Knesset Speaker said. ”About one and a half million Ukrainian Jews were killed at the hands of the Nazis, who, most regrettably, received the cooperation of many Ukrainians.” 

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Turning his attention to the global terror threat, Edelstein called on the world`s nations to unite in the fight against radical Islam. ”Unfortunately, our nations' right to live in peace and security cannot be taken for granted. I hope that the prolonged internal disputes in your country, and the struggles which have resulted in so many victims – will be resolved soon,” he told President Poroshenko. 

”Israel, for its part, is dealing with its own challenges. We are doing [all we can] to promote peace and cooperation initiatives with our neighbors and allies overseas in order to create a better world and a civil human society."

Remembering the past, looking ahead

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu then drew similarities between Israel and Ukraine.

”Like you, we are an ancient nation, but our country is young, and we want to experience the future together while cooperating in [the fields of] culture, technology and medicine," he said.  

Netanyahu mentioned that at the end of next year Ukraine and Israel will mark 75 years since the massacre of Jews in Babi Yar.

”We have a lot of respect for your plans to march Ukraine forward despite the great bureaucracy," he stated. "The world is changing quickly, but we must take advantage of progress. We must not forget the times when we were persecuted and our blood was spilled like water, including in Kiev. We will work together to hold a joint ceremony to commemorate the victims.” 

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He then brought Israel and Ukraine back to the present. 

”We appreciate your efforts to protect the rights of Jews in Ukraine in the face of anti-Semitism," he stated. "We are facing bitter enemies who refuse to recognize us, but there is a global struggle against a force that wants to take the world backwards, including the countries surrounding the Black Sea." 

”In the face of this barbarism, we must stand together as a united front," he continued. "We have a peace agreement with Egypt and Jordan, and we would gladly expand the circle of peace, with the Palestinians, but first they have to recognize us." 

”We thank you for your support of Israel, and I hope a proper solution will be found to your conflict with Russia. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where there is full freedom of religion for Christians.”