The President of Israel and his wife Gila opened a four day State Visit to Austria this morning. It is the first visit of an Israeli President to Austria.
Vienna welcomed the President and his wife with warm and clear weather as was the reception they received. At Vienna’s ancient Imperial Palace the President of Austria, Dr. Heinz Fischer and his wife Margit awaited President Katsav and his wife. A guard of honor of the Austrian army saluted the two Presidents and the military band played the anthems. From the courtyard of the Hofburg Palace the two Presidents and their delegations went into a work meeting in the Presidential section of the Palace.
President Fischer emphasized that he would do everything possible to ensure the success of President Katsav´s visit to Austria, as it is "an historic opportunity in the relations of the two nations." "One must not forget the past but it is necessary to look to the future," said President Fischer who expressed his wish to maintain deep discussions with his guest.
President Katsav opened with an appraisal of the Palestinian Israeli conflict. He called on Austria and on Europe to separate between their political support and their unconditional opposition to the terrorism they are using. In reply to President Fischer´s call to show understanding towards the Palestinians’ motives, President Katsav said: "There is no justification for terrorism and it must not be given any understanding. You must call on the Palestinians to stop the terrorism and not show understanding for their motives."
President Katsav admitted that sometimes accidents occur when Israel is trying to protect itself. "However, unfortunate accidents, such as the death of Palestinian children, occur, because the Palestinians operate from residential homes and they use women and children to shelter themselves." The President emphasized that the IDF is doing everything possible to prevent harming citizens.
Both Presidents agreed that anti-Semitism must be combated without any compromise. "After the events of the Nazi period we cannot permit such incidents to happen in Austria and Europe, " said President Fischer.
President Katsav called on the Europeans to deal with anti-Semitism through legislation, education and law enforcement.
In a press conference after the discussion, President Katsav added: "We must ensure that our generation learns the lessons of the Holocaust and passes it on to future generations. Otherwise we are likely to experience such phenomena in the future too."
President Katsav, his wife and delegation were the guests of President Fischer and his wife at a State dinner. The following day the two Presidents visited Mauthausen, the former concentration camp.