In an Independence Day tradition, President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday hosted the foreign diplomatic corps at his Jerusalem residence, this time with some new guests: the freshly appointed envoys to Israel of the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.
The two nations recently normalized relations with Israel.
According to Channel 12 news, the ambassadors of Jordan and Egypt also attended the celebratory event after avoiding it in past years.
Rivlin, whose term as president is ending this summer, told those in attendance that “on this Independence Day, we are also celebrating the new spirit of peace spreading throughout the Middle East.”
Earlier on Thursday the UAE Embassy’s official Twitter account posted a photo of the Israeli and Emirati flags side by side with the caption: “The UAE Embassy in Israel wishes the citizens of Israel a happy Independence Day!”
שגרירות איחוד האמירויות בישראל מברכת את אזרחי מדינת ישראל, יום העצמאות שמח! pic.twitter.com/Y05OOSPOaI
— UAE Embassy in Israel (@UAEinIsrael) April 15, 2021
Rivlin added: “Relations between the peoples are growing ever stronger, demonstrating that the way to peace is through cooperation between people and cooperation that benefits both sides, rather than attacks on Israel in international institutions.”
He was apparently referring to the International Criminal Court’s decision to investigate Israel and Hamas for alleged war crimes, at the request of the Palestinian Authority.
“It is my hope and prayer that the widening circle of peace will also bring closer our Palestinian neighbors,” he said.
Rivlin told assembled diplomats he was “particularly happy that we can celebrate here together, despite the pandemic.”
He said he had always found “great friendship and appreciation for Israel” during his travels around the world as president, “for its vibrant democracy, its cultural diversity and its innovation.”
And he said international cooperation was now more important than ever, as the world attempts to end the coronavirus pandemic with global vaccination drives.
He also warned that Iran was threatening regional stability and peace, and said Israel “will not accept” threats to its existence and do everything to stop those that wish it harm.
Earlier in the day the president hosted another annual ceremony at his residence to award the army’s annual citations for distinguished service to 120 Israel Defense Forces soldiers and officers from different military units.
“As a child, I grew up in the days when we had no country. For me Israel[‘s existence] was not a given,” Rivlin told the soldiers as he recalled the 73 years of Israel’s history. “For the younger generation today, the powerful and strong State of Israel, innovative and prosperous, groundbreaking and happy, is an existing fact.”
“But our internal building, the work on our nation and society, has not ended yet,” he said.
“I am touched to stand before you today for the last time as president. On this Independence Day, you give us 120 reasons to be proud,” he said, adding that “even if it appears we as a nation are struggling to agree on the path, we have not lost our direction,” likely referring to the political deadlock which has left the country without a stable government in over two years.
Independence Day celebrations began on Wednesday night with an official torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem and continued throughout Thursday. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis visited national parks, museums and various events throughout the day after coronavirus restrictions were significantly relaxed.