Rivlin appears to reject Catalonia’s independence bid
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Rivlin appears to reject Catalonia’s independence bid

‘Spain for us is one country,’ president tells King Felipe VI in Madrid, says he hopes current conflict will be resolved peacefully

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin (lleft) and Spanish King Felipe VI in Madrid, November 6, 2017 (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin (lleft) and Spanish King Felipe VI in Madrid, November 6, 2017 (Haim Zach/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday appeared to reject Catalonia’s bid for independence and to endorse Spanish unity.

“Spain for us is one country, and His Majesty the King is the symbol of that unity,” he said at a state dinner in Madrid’s Royal Palace, hosted by King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain.

“All of the citizens of Spain are dear to us and we hope and pray that all conflicts will be solved by peaceful measures,” Rivlin said.

The president is currently on a four-day trip to Spain to commemorate 30 years of diplomatic relations and 100 years since the reestablishment of the Jewish community in Spain after its expulsion in 1492.

Though his speech Monday did not mention Catalonia, it contained the most outspoken comments by an Israeli official on the region’s controversial quest for independence.

“The president expressed Israel’s position, namely that it’s an internal issue, to be dealt with within Spain as a unified country,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

Last week, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling for the ongoing crisis in Spain to be resolved “quickly and peacefully and through broad national consensus,” but stopping short of endorsing the country’s unity.

Spain had reportedly requested Israel align itself with many other Western nations in rejecting the October 1 referendum on Catalan independence. More than 90 percent of voters in the semi-autonomous area in the kingdom’s northeast voted in favor of secession.

Support for Israel is seen as more prevalent in Catalonia than in many other regions of Spain, a federal kingdom of 17 semi-autonomous regions, according to a report on the Hebrew-language news site NRG last week.

But ACOM, a pro-Israel organization based in Madrid, in a statement Monday disputed the idea that an independent Catalonia would be a friend to Israel. It recalled that Barcelona, the capital of the region, is among the 50-odd municipalities throughout Spain that have adopted the boycott campaign against Israel as official policy.

ACOM also recalled various anti-Semitic expressions by Catalan politicians, and noted that, despite disputes, Israel and Spain maintain friendly relations.

In recent years, the Spanish judiciary has cracked down on state bodies adopting a boycott policy against Israel, scrapping those motions as anti-constitutional and discriminatory. Spain has the largest number of such municipalities in Europe.

President Reuven Rivlin meets with Madrid’s Jewish community on November 5, 2017. (Haim Zach / GPO)

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, or FCJE, is opposed to the Catalan secessionist efforts. Rivlin met with the group’s president, Isaac Querub, on Sunday.

“United Spain is under threat, as well as the fabric of coexistence, and social and economic stability in the country,” Querub told the president. “We need Israel, and Israel can always rely on our support.”

Later on Tuesday, Rivlin is scheduled to address the Spanish Senate, where is expected to again express Israel’s support for a united Spain.

Times of Israel staff and JTA contributed to this report.

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