President Reuven Rivlin traveled to Austria on the second leg of a European tour on Wednesday, where he warned of the dangers of ignoring rising extremism before it is too late.
“Austria did not wake up one morning to the swastikas of the Third Reich. Anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia had been incubating for years. That is how the horrors were born – out of apathy and disregard,” Rivlin said at a ceremony at a monument to Holocaust victims in Vienna that he attended together with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen.
Rivlin is on a European tour, traveling with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, aimed at underscoring the threat from Iran’s nuclear program and rallying opposition to the International Criminal Court’s decision to probe alleged war crimes by Israel and Palestinian terror groups.
In his speech, Rivlin also warned of the dangers of not confronting aggression from Iran and its proxies.
“The international community must recognize the threat Iran poses and take an uncompromising stance against its nuclear program and its support for terrorist organizations,” Rivlin said.
“This is where the international community’s intervention is needed, and not in the field of international law that is being cynically exploited for political reasons in order to weaken the State of Israel,” he added, referring to the ICC.
Rivlin also thanked Austria for standing with Israel in the international arena for their commitment to Israel’s security.
Van der Bellen noted the close ties that exist today between Austria and Israel, saying that it was “our duty to oppose any resurgence of inhumanity, racism and anti-Semitism decisively and without compromise. Our aim today is to allow Jewish life without interference in any place – Israel, Europe, Vienna, or any other place.”
Rivlin also held a working meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz. During the meeting, the president expressed his thanks for Austria’s commitment to fighting anti-Semitism with a new national strategy, and for its support for Israel regarding the ICC.
Kohavi also briefed Austrian leaders on the Iranian threat and emphasized the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring military nuclear capabilities.
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced earlier this month that she was opening an investigation into actions committed by Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem since 2014. The Palestinians have already said they will cooperate with the probe by the Hague-based court. Israel has yet to decide how it will respond but the decision to open an investigation has been condemned by top Israeli officials.
The three-day trip comes as the UN’s nuclear watchdog is working to save the agreement between world powers and Iran that has unraveled ever since former US president Donald Trump pulled out of it in 2018. Germany and France are both signatories to the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs to its nuclear program.
After its withdrawal from the pact, the US reapplied strict sanctions on Iran, which responded by stepping away from its own commitments to the deal, in particular by ramping up uranium enrichment, a key process in producing a nuclear weapon.
US President Joe Biden and his administration have repeatedly said they will return to the JCPOA if Tehran first returns to compliance. Iran has insisted the US remove sanctions before it returns to the deal’s terms, putting the two sides at a stalemate.
In recent months, Iran has repeatedly taken steps to violate the deal and turn up the heat on the US, including by enriching uranium past the accord’s limits and barring UN inspections of its nuclear facilities.