President Rivlin to U.S. Jewish Groups: I Appreciate Merkel's Tough Stance Against German Far-right

Rivlin's comments are the first time an Israeli official directly addressed gains made by the AfD. Netanyahu said Tuesday he was concerned about German 'anti-Semitism from the right and the left'

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at a Jaffa conference in September 2017.
Moti Milrod

President Reuven Rivlin told a conference call with the leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that he appreciated German Chancellor Angela Merkel's position against the Alternative for Germany party and her struggle opposing neo-Nazism as it raising its head throughout the world.

A statement issued by the President’s Residence said Rivlin told of his meeting with Merkel a few weeks ago and said that she had expressed her commitment to Israel’s security. Rivlin stressed that there was no place for racist and anti-Semitic voices, in Germany or anywhere else.

Rivlin’s remarks were the first by a senior Israeli official to directly address the fact that the far-right AfD became the third largest party in Germany’s parliament following national elections Sunday. Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff said Tuesday that Israel was concerned about the AfD’s achievement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has refrained from direct criticism of the extremist party and said in a cabinet meeting that he was concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe “from both the right and the left.”

During the conference call, Rivlin also addressed the blacklist of companies doing business in the Palestinian territories written by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, saying that Israel was concerned about it because it could do damage to Israeli and American companies and harm the Palestinians as well. He called on the heads of the Jewish organizations to take every possible step to help Israel fight the blacklist, stressing this was an American interest no less than an Israeli one.

The president also addressed the relations between Israel and the Jewish community in the Diaspora, noting that they had reached a low point during the past year. He acknowledged the disappointments and the unrealized expectations, but refused to accept that the rift was irreparable. We will never turn our backs on our family that lives abroad, Rivlin said, adding that the two sides had to learn from one another on how to reach better understanding, not just about what connects the two populations, but also about how they differ.