During Wednesday`s special Knesset session in honor of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ”Like you, we are an ancient nation, but our country is young, and we want to experience the future together while cooperating in [the fields of] culture, technology and medicine.”
Netanyahu mentioned that at the end of next year Ukraine and Israel will mark 75 years since the massacre of Jews in Babi Yar, and said ”We have a lot of respect for your plans to march Ukraine forward despite the great bureaucracy. The world is changing quickly, but we must take advantage of progress. We must not forget the times when we were persecuted and our blood was spilled like water, including in Kiev. We will work together to hold a joint ceremony to commemorate the victims.”
”We appreciate your efforts to protect the rights of Jews in Ukraine in the face of anti-Semitism. We are facing bitter enemies who refuse to recognize us, but there is a global struggle against a force that wants to take the world backwards, including the countries surrounding the Black Sea,” the PM said in his speech.
”In the face of this barbarism, we must stand together as a united front. We have a peace agreement with Egypt and Jordan, and we would gladly expand the circle of peace, with the Palestinians, but first they have to recognize us,” Netanyahu stated.
”We thank you for your support of Israel, and I hope a proper solution will be found to your conflict with Russia. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where there is full freedom of religion for Christians.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said in his speech that ”Our countries are facing major diplomatic, political and social challenges… Here in Israel we are maintaining a vigorous, stable and impressive democracy, which is occasionally threatened in various ways, including the existence of an extremist underground that has been carrying out `price tag` acts for a while now. The terrible murder in the Palestinian village of Douma has been hovering over our agenda for some time, and this is an opportunity to back the General Security Service and the investigating, enforcing and judicial elements that are dealing with this severe affair. [It is also an opportunity] to resolutely condemn the terrible murder and all those who will try to claim it was not an act of terror. Every democracy has to first protect itself from those who are undermining it and trying to dismantle it from the inside, from its foundations.”
Turning to President Poroshenko, Herzog said ”Ukraine draws its strength from its citizens. Our success as a dynamic society and as a strong country stems from the entrepreneurial spirit and vision of our citizens. Many of them immigrated from former Soviet republics; hundreds of thousands came [to Israel] from Ukraine. Their contribution to the State of Israel is enormous. Today, this is a central group in our society, and my colleagues and I ask that those in this group who are growing old be taken care of, in the hope that the social security pact between our countries, which was significantly promoted during my tenure as Minister of Welfare and Social Services, will be advanced and implemented as soon as possible, so that these olim (immigrants) will receive a pensionary security net, which they are entitled to, from your country.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, who opened the session, noted in his speech that next year Israel and Ukraine will mark 20 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between them. ”Your visit here today is a testament to our countries` warm and dynamic relationship in the international arena. Ukraine and Israel cooperate in numerous fields, including trade, science and culture,” he told President Petro Poroshenko, while mentioning that the visa-exemption agreement, which was signed a few years ago, has significantly increased tourism between the two countries.
”Our nations share a history of more than 1,000 years. The Hassidic movement grew in Ukraine, many Zionist leaders operated there, and Jewish art and culture flourished. But, unfortunately, this shared history also included several difficult periods of pogroms and the harassment of Jews, which began as early as the days of [Bohdan] Khmelnytsky in the 17th century and reached their peak during the Holocaust,” the Knesset speaker said. ”About one and a half million Ukrainian Jews were killed at the hands of the Nazis, who, most regrettably, received the cooperation of many Ukrainians.”
Turning his attention to the global terror threat, Speaker Edelstein called on the world`s nations to unite in the fight against radical Islam. ”Unfortunately, our nations` right to live in peace and security cannot be taken for granted. I hope that the prolonged internal disputes in your country, and the struggles which have resulted in so many victims – will be resolved soon,” he told President Poroshenko.
”Israel, for its part, is dealing with its own challenges. We are doing [all we can] to promote peace and cooperation initiatives with our neighbors and allies overseas in order to create a better world and a civil human society,” the Knesset speaker said in his speech.