President Reuven Rivlin is wrapping up a visit to Romania and will return to Israel on Thursday evening, ending one of his final overseas trips in office.
Rivlin addressed a joint session of parliament in Bucharest on Wednesday, mentioning the country’s troubled history during the Holocaust as well as its warm ties with Israel today and its backing for the Jewish state’s efforts to defend itself against its enemies.
“The Jewish people has a past that is not abstract. It is engraved in our flesh and we carry it with us wherever we go,” Rivlin said in his address. “We do not forget the terrible times, when centuries-old Jewish life was cut short in a place it called home. Who can forget? Yet, we are not stuck in the past. We choose the present and the future. We choose life.”
The president said that “like all democracies, the State of Israel is open to criticism. But we will not accept attempts to weaken us or undermine our right to exist through misuse of violence or international law.”
Rivlin said that Israel has “no conflict with Islam or the Arab peoples of the Middle East. We are fighting dark forces that aim to terrorize and destroy the State of Israel and its people. Iran’s regime of terror and those who collaborate with it in Lebanon and Gaza seek to undermine our right to exist. Israel has the right and the duty to protect its citizens – from the threat of nuclear weapons, from missiles and from terrorism.”
On Thursday afternoon, Rivlin participated in an official memorial ceremony for the seven people who died in a helicopter crash during an IDF training session in Romania in 2010. He was accompanied by an IDF delegation as well as representatives of the bereaved families.
“Eleven years have gone by since this horrible tragedy,” he said at the ceremony. “Eleven years of pain and longing… there is no comfort. The best way to remember and to honor the heroes that fell is to walk in their path. To connect to their love of homeland and to be there for your family members.”
Rivlin also thanked the government for the ongoing security cooperation between the nations, calling it “incredibly important… to the regional security of Israel,” Rivlin said. “I thank the government of Romania and the Romanian Air Force for this incredibly important activity.”
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) June 10, 2021
On Wednesday, Rivlin laid a wreath at the Holocaust memorial to Romanian Jews in Bucharest, as well as at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Romanian capital.
Rivlin met with Romanian Prime Minister Florin Cîțu at a business seminar attended by dozens of Israeli and Romanian business leaders.
“Economic cooperation between Israel and Romania has great potential, with mutual benefits for both countries. We have much in common,” Rivlin said. “Israelis and Romanians are blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit, a deep belief in the value of education and a determination to overcome challenges.”
The president thanked the Romanian government and the prime minister for their “active support for Israeli-Romanian relations” and thanked “the Israeli Embassy in Romania and the economic delegation for their excellent work in building bridges between the countries.”
Cîțu thanked Rivlin for his words, adding that Romania sees Israel as an important business partner.
In an earlier meeting with Cîțu, Rivlin told him that “Israel deeply appreciates the understanding and support of your government and of Romania for our right to defend ourselves. It is not just the right but also the duty of every government on behalf of its citizens.”
Rivlin’s seven-year term as president will come to an end next month, when he will be succeeded by Isaac Herzog, who was elected to the position by the Knesset in early June.
Last month, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken met with Rivlin in Jerusalem and extended an invitation from US President Joe Biden for Rivlin to visit the White House before his term ends. Rivlin accepted the invite, but a date for the visit has yet to be confirmed. Herzog is slated to be sworn in as president on July 9.