Liberian pres­i­dent to Rivlin: Fun­da­men­tal­ism threat­ens peace

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By GREER FAY CASH­MAN

Liberian Pres­i­dent and No­bel Prize lau­re­ate Ellen John­son-Sir­leaf met with Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin at his res­i­dence on Mon­day, where the pair dis­cussed fun­da­men­tal­ism, ter­ror­ism, and ties be­tween the two coun­tries.

John­son-Sir­leaf thanked Rivlin for Is­rael’s help in over­com­ing the Ebola cri­sis and praised Is­rael’s am­bas­sador to Liberia, Ami Mehl, for be­ing in­stru­men­tal in help­ing the coun­try move faster to­ward the re­al­iza­tion of its goals.

John­son-Sir­leaf, who is the first fe­male head of state in Africa, then turned her at­ten­tion to the fun­da­men­tal­ism now plagu­ing the world.

All the coun­tries of West Africa have been hit by ter­ror­ism in­sti­gated by Mus­lim fun­da­men­tal­ists, she said. “This kind of pen­e­tra­tion by ter­ror­ists can un­der­mine the peace we have had.” Liberia can benefit in this re­gard from any ad­di­tional knowl­edge and in­tel­li­gence that Is­rael has to of­fer, she added.

The Liberian pres­i­dent pre­vi­ously vis­ited Is­rael in 2007, and re­turned now to re­ceive an hon­orary doc­tor­ate from the Univer­sity of Haifa on Tues­day.

The two pres­i­dents dis­cussed the long friend­ship be­tween their coun­tries, with John­son-Sir­leaf com­ment­ing that the re­la­tion­ship goes back to Is­rael’s very be­gin­nings as a state. Liberia voted in fa­vor of the par­ti­tion of Pales­tine in the United Na­tions vote taken on Novem­ber 29, 1947.

In tan­dem with other African states, Liberia sev­ered re­la­tions with Is­rael in 1973 in the af­ter­math of the Yom Kip­pur War, and re­newed them in Au­gust 1983. How­ever, the civil war that erupted in Liberia caused Is­rael to close its em­bassy in Mon­rovia. Re­la­tions were upgraded fol­low­ing John­son-Sir­leaf’s elec­tion in 2006.

Though softly spo­ken, the Liberian pres­i­dent is an ex­traor­di­nar­ily in­flu­en­tial woman, who has spent a cou­ple of spells in prison on po­lit­i­cal grounds and who has served in se­nior po­si­tions at the United Na­tions, the World Bank and other pres­ti­gious fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

Her role mod­els used to be pow­er­ful women such as Mar­garet Thatcher and Indira Gandhi, in whose foot­steps she fol­lowed un­til she ran into Nel­son Man­dela.

“He made us more con­scious of hu­man­ity,” she said, adding: “We have tried to bring back some of the free­doms lost dur­ing years of mil­i­tancy and con­flict.”

Ebola was more than a health cri­sis for Liberia. It also af­fected the coun­try’s econ­omy. Many in­vestors left the coun­try and it is now go­ing through a pe­riod of re-growth.

Sim­i­larly, dur­ing the years of con­flict as well as the health cri­sis the ed­u­cated class left the coun­try, and Liberia is now in the process of re­build­ing its ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. “The chal­lenges are many, but we con­tinue to be re­silient,” said John­son-Sir­leaf.

When Rivlin asked John­son-Sir­leaf to see whether she could in­flu­ence her col­leagues to grant Is­rael ob­server sta­tus in the African Union, she ex­plained that many African coun­tries “have friends on both sides, and we have re­la­tion­ships on both sides.”

If there is some way in which to help she pledged, she would do so. “One of the things we all say is that we need peace in the world.”


PRES­I­DENT REU­VEN RIVLIN yes­ter­day wel­comes Liberian Pres­i­dent Ellen John­son-Sir­leaf to his of­fi­cial res­i­dence.

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