Peace cannot be based on hypocrisy or on distortions of historical truth. Peace demands that the Palestinian leadership finally recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people and peace demands that they cease all incitement against Israel and the Jewish people.
Copyright: GPO/Kobi Gideon
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Advisor)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met today (Monday 1 December 2014) with the Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić.
At the start of the meeting, the two made the following statements:
PM Netanyahu: It’s an honor to welcome you to Israel, Prime Minister Vučić.
The friendship between the Jewish and Serbian peoples goes back to thousands of years, to the time of the Roman Republic. In the modern world our two peoples were united in struggle and in suffering. During the terrible years of the Second World War in Serbia, our people faced brutal persecution and murder at the hands of the Nazis and their friends. We will never forget the role of the Serbian people in fighting Nazism. It’s a badge of honor, and one that is deeply felt in our hearts and will always, always be there.
Serbian Jews, Prime Minister, played an important role in the national rebirth of the Jewish people. In the 19th century, perhaps the first progenitor of modern Zionism was Rabbi Yehudah Alkalai, who was from Serbia. Two of the presents of Theodore Herzl, two of the progenitors of Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, are buried in Belgrade. Very few people know that. So the modern State of Israel is the culmination of the vision of both Herzl and Alkalai.
Here in the State of Israel, the Jewish people have achieved their self- determination in a democratic state that guarantees equal rights for all its peoples, all its citizens, regardless of race, religion or sex.
And it’s indeed a tragedy that so many of our Palestinian neighbors still repudiate the basic facts of history. They deny the more than three thousand year-old connection between the people of Israel and the Land of Israel. They reject the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination, even as they demand that very right for themselves. Just last weekend, Palestinian President Abbas reiterated that he would never recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish people’s right to a nation-state. The peculiar thing is that he said this on the 29th of November, on the very day 67 years ago that the United Nations called for the establishment of a Jewish state.
Well, peace cannot be based on such hypocrisy. Peace will never be built on distortions of the historical truth. Peace demands that the Palestinian leadership finally recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people and peace demands that they cease all incitement against Israel and the Jewish people. Only this morning, Mr. Prime Minister, we saw in Gush Etzion how incitement leads to wanton acts of murderous violence.
Mr. Prime Minister, despite the centuries of friendship between Serbians and Jews, I believe yours is the first visit ever of a Serbian Prime Minister to the State of Israel, and in making this historic visit you demonstrate your friendship towards Israel and the Jewish people. It’s a friendship I am well aware of. It’s a friendship that we and the people of Israel share with the people and the Republic of Serbia.
Your visit also demonstrates your commitment to strengthening the bilateral cooperation between Serbia and Israel. This is my commitment too. I think that your visit here can serve as a catalyst to enhance our relationship in every field, and I believe that the existing levels of cooperation do not reflect, do not even begin to reflect, the potential that we can achieve in commerce, in technology, in cultural exchanges, in every single field that we can possibly ponder, we can do a lot more and your visit will serve the purpose of doing more. I believe that by working together we can make both our countries more prosperous and more secure.
Mr. Prime Minister, it’s a pleasure to welcome you here in Israel. Welcome.
Prime Minister Vučić: Thank you. Dear Prime Minister, dear friends, first of all, I have to say that I am profoundly grateful and honored to be here. I have to add that everything that Prime Minister Netanyahu have just said about our past has been something very true and yeah, we shared in a way the same destiny and I hope that we’ll be able within the years to come to preserve our long-lasting friendship and we are very proud of that friendship.
On the other hand, I came here to invest in the future, to invest in the future cooperation of the State of Serbia and the State of Israel. We think that we can improve our relationship in all areas, in all spheres – in the political sphere, economic sphere. We have around 40 millions of our trade exchange. I think that we can increase these numbers significantly. I think that we can expand our cooperation and collaboration within the areas of industry, agriculture and IT sector.
Also we should discuss all the security challenges we are facing with and I am very proud to say today that Serbs, like Jews, we never forget those people that helped us a lot in a most difficult situation that we were faced with. And that’s the reason why I am profoundly grateful to the Prime Minister Netanyahu, because of his personal contribution and Israel’s contribution after we faced terrible floods in May this year. And I got even a call from the Prime Minister’s Office from Prime Minister himself and I cannot say how deeply he showed his, he paid his tribute to Serbian people and we will never forget his dedication, even his devotion, in that very terrible situation that we faced with.
We overcame that situation. Now we are doing our best to finish all the houses that we started to build at that time, and we are restructuring and doing our best to overcome all the bumps on the roads for our power plants and our coalmine that were flooded as well and with your support, we did it in a much better and in a much faster way.
And we’ll always be seeking and searching for the peace. I’m sure that Israel is doing the same and I hope that we’ll find very concrete measures to establish better and let’s say more prosperous cooperation between the States of Serbia and Israel.
Once again, thank you very much for hospitality. I’m sorry that I took a lot of your time. Thank you.