Israeli President Rivlin on whirlwind EU visit with central focus on Iranian threat

Reuven Rivlin arrived in Germany and will visit France and Austria to discuss the Iran nuclear threat, Hezbollah terror and the ICC.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

President of Israel Reuven Rivlin arrived in Germany Tuesday for a three day European visit to discuss pressing security matters with the heads of Germany, France and Austria.

Accompanied by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi , Rivlin met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin.

Before departing Israel, Rivlin’s office said he will be discussing a number of serious issues with European leaders, including the dangers of the rising power of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon, the intensification of Iran’s nuclear project and the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which recently announced it would start a criminal investigation against Israel.

“The international community must stand together, speaking out strongly and without compromise against Iran’s nuclear plan and its support for terrorist groups that threaten Israel and the stability of the region,” Rivlin said in a statement released by his office.

Rivlin thanked Steinmeier for Germany’s stance with Israel against the decision of the Court and reiterated Israel’s strong objections to the opening of the ICC investigation, saying Israel stood by the IDF and its soldiers who “protect us from our enemies and we will protect them from this decision. The State of Israel will not accept claims against the implementation of her right and duty to protect her citizens.”

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Earlier this month Israel received solid backing from the U.S., which also is opposed to the Court’s focus on Israel.

Chief of staff’s presence

Although Rivlin is a figurehead who represents Israel but does not set policy, Kochavi’s presence lends a seriousness to the trip with his role being to “brief the European presidents on security matters.”

The general talked to the Germans about a number of security issues, particularly Iran and Lebanon, and elaborated on the failings of the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Speaking about Iran, the president said the Islamic Republic was using “nuclear blackmail” to obtain relaxation of the economic sanctions. He added that Israel attaches great importance to setting out red lines for Iranian conduct that will prevent further development of its nuclear program.

Following the meeting Rivlin spoke of the strong relations between the two countries.

“The friendship and cooperation between us cover an extremely wide range of issues. Germany today shows an extraordinary commitment to the security of the State of Israel and to maintaining regional stability in the Middle East and we appreciate it deeply,” Rivlin said.

He also warned that even as the Abraham Accords were warming ties with the Arab world, “extremist forces, led by Iran, are threatening to undermine this stability. The international community must stand together, speaking out strongly and without compromise against Iran’s nuclear plan and its support for terrorist groups that threaten Israel and the stability of the region.”

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Israeli MIAs

Rivlin also thanked Steinmeier for German efforts to release Israeli civilian hostages and the bodies of IDF soldiers held by Hamas in Gaza.

“We will continue everything we can to bring our boys home,” Rivlin said, expressing his hope that “the positive developments in the Middle East will be reflected in our relations with the Palestinians and will contribute to the restarting of political negotiations between us, and the abandonment of hatred and violence.”

Steinmeier noted that the last time the two met was last year for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

“For me, as the president of Germany, those were such moving moments that will always remain in my memory. During the last year, we have continued to draw lessons from the past, even when we have not met. In particular, we have spoken about fighting anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism,” Steinmeier said.

The German president said he saw the normalization agreements with Arab countries “as nothing less than historic.”

However, on the subject of Iran Steinmeier sounded a cooler note regarding Israel’s position, saying that he heard Israel’s concerns about its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“The previous American administration’s policy did not, we believe, support positive developments and we hope that we can bring about change in the future with the new administration and our European neighbors,” Steinmeier said.

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Rivlin’s seven-year term as president of Israel ends this year, and he thanked his German counterpart for their many years of friendship, while calling on both countries to “continue to deepen our cooperation both in remembering the past and in continuing to create the present and the future.”