Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with Irish Foreign Minister Simon CoveneyMark Neiman / GPO

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday morning held a working meeting at his residence with the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Ireland, Simon Coveney, who was visiting Israel.

President Rivlin began by congratulating the Foreign Minister on the formation of the new government in Ireland and reiterated an existing invitation to the new Prime Minister to visit Israel.

“We would like to welcome him,” Rivlin said, “I think the relationship between Israel and Ireland is very important, in spite of differences of opinion which we have from time to time.”

“We have differences of opinion and we can respect that, but we really are against the idea of boycotts, I believe that among people who respect one another we have the ability to criticize from time to time, and also to explain the real facts according to our beliefs.”

Rivlin also noted that as Knesset Speaker, he had enjoyed a successful visit to Ireland.

“I will always remember my visit to your wonderful country, to see and to watch the strength of democracy in your parliament.”

He also noted that the problems Israel faced in this region were problems that affected all of Europe.

Coveney thanked Rivlin for his welcome, and said he would encourage his Prime Minister to visit.

“I have been to Israel a number of times, and I know there is an impression here that Ireland takes a different position to Israel, can I say that in essence though, we yearn for the same thing that I think the vast majority of Israelis are, which is a peaceful future,” Coveney said.

“We have experienced a lot of violence on our own island, and we are still working on a peace process.

“The reason that Irish people are so interested in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship and conflict is because we have had a violent past ourselves, and we see this as one of the great conflicts and divisions in the world. That is why the majority of Irish peacekeeping soldiers are in this part of the world.

“We work closely with Israel in relation to maintaining a good and professional relationship in that regard.

“My reason for being here – the first visit I have made as Foreign Minister outside Europe – is despite what people may sometimes feel about Ireland, we do care about this region, and want to be helpful.”

Thanking Coveney, Rivlin spoke about the importance Israel placed on building confidence and understanding between the two sides of the conflict. He noted the tragic rejection by many Palestinians of Israel as a Jewish state, or as a state at all, and stressed the importance of recognizing the connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

Regarding UNESCO's resolution on Jerusalem, Rivlin said, “To suggest the Jewish people have no connection to Jerusalem, is to suggest the Irish people have no connection with Dublin - or Guinness!”