The Jerusalem Post

Back to pomp and ceremony at presidenti­al welcome for Steinmeier


Other than the fact that almost everyone was wearing masks, pomp and ceremony returned to the President’s Residence on Thursday as President Reuven Rivlin hosted the last state visit by a foreign leader during his tenure.

Better still, the leader in question was German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, with whom Rivlin enjoys a long and close personal friendship.

Due to the imposition of health restrictio­ns during the past year and a half, the few visiting heads of state received a relatively low-key reception with considerab­ly reduced military or police orchestras and an honor guard so low in numbers that it was merely symbolic.

There had been no reception lines of diplomats, public figures, leaders of religious denominati­ons and accompanyi­ng presidenti­al entourages.

All that changed on Thursday with full contingent­s in all three categories, who waited for more than half an hour in the searing heat of the Jerusalem summer for Steinmeier to arrive.

He had walked the length of the red carpet at the President’s Residence several times previously, both as foreign minister and president.

Rivlin had gone out to greet him as he exited his limousine. The warmth of the greeting and the mutual affection between the two was obvious.

Inside the building there appeared to be more floral arrangemen­ts than usual. It is customary for such arrangemen­ts to be in the colors of the national flag of the visiting president, but in this case it was not entirely possible because the colors of the German flag are bright yellow, strong red and black. So the floral arrangemen­ts of carnations, roses, lilies and mimosa were in yellow and red surrounded by lots of greenery.

Following the ceremonial protocol, the two presidents went into Rivlin’s office for a tête-àtête, then emerged to make their official statements, with Steinmeier speaking for a much longer period than Rivlin.

Though English is their common language and the one in which they communicat­e, Rivlin spoke in Hebrew and Steinmeier in German.

They then left for another

meeting and later reemerged to plant an apple tree in the Avenue of the Presidents, located in the residence’s garden. This tradition was establishe­d by president Shimon Peres, whereby visiting princes, presidents and popes plant a tree together with whoever is the incumbent head of state.

Steinmeier’s tree is next to the oak that was planted by Prince

Charles a year and a half ago when he came to Israel to participat­e alongside world leaders in the commemorat­ion of the 75th anniversar­y of the liberation of Auschwitz. Among the other trees are those planted by US presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, former French president François Hollande and popes Benedict and Francis. There is also a tree planted in memory of Nechama Rivlin by the residents of Moshav Herut, where she was born and raised.

Following the tree-planting, Rivlin and Steinmeier once again went inside for a private chat after which they visited the graves of Nechama Rivlin and Theodor Herzl and then participat­ed in a ceremony at Yad Vashem before meeting again in the evening at the state dinner in Steinmeier’s honor.

In their respective remarks, each was lavish beyond the norm in praise of the other.

Rivlin, as he has done on previous occasions, recalled that as a law student he had participat­ed in demonstrat­ions across the road from the President’s Residence to protest Israel entering into diplomatic relations with Germany.

He said there was something symbolic in the fact that the last head of state that he was hosting in Jerusalem was the president of Germany, with whom he had embarked on a long journey that included the most horrific and painful chapters in the history of their two peoples.

“It was a journey that took us to the exterminat­ion camp of Auschwitz in Poland, the darkest symbol of the despicable plan to exterminat­e my people, to the halls of power in Berlin in whose earlier incarnatio­ns the murderous orders of the ‘Final Solution’ were formulated,” said Rivlin. ”There, in the chamber of the Bundestag, I delivered a speech in Hebrew. And our jour

ney began – and is now back – in Jerusalem, the undisputed heart of the Jewish people, a symbol of its eternal rebirth and the capital of the Jewish and democratic state.”

Even though Israel and Germany disagree on various issues from time to time, said Rivlin, “both our nations are partners in fighting the Iranian plan to acquire nuclear weapons, which will threaten the stability of the region and of the whole world.” He also emphasized that Israel and Germany are partners in fighting Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which threaten Israel’s security.

Rivlin also made a point of publicly thanking Steinmeier for his efforts in trying to bring about the release of Israel’s fallen soldiers plus two civilians held in Hamas captivity for several years.

Addressing Rivlin by his nickname “Ruvi” and using the informal German “you” – saying “du” instead of “Sie” – Steinmeier spoke of the testing times confrontin­g both Germany and Israel and referred to Israel’s young and new broad-based government, whose coalition leaders he would meet later in the day.

In a reference to the most recent conflict between Israel and the Palestinia­ns, Steinmeier said Germany will never accept missile attacks on Israel, and reiterated his frequently uttered comment that “Israel has the right to live in security.” But it is his belief that this cannot happen without a two-state solution.

Rivlin has often spoken of the need to build confidence between Israel and the Palestinia­ns, and Steinmeier voiced an identical opinion, and suggested that small steps, with the aim of building trust, have to be taken by the new Israeli government.

On the Iranian issue, Germany and Israel, though in agreement about the end, are at odds about the means.

 ?? (Kobi Gideon/GPO) ?? PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier lay wreaths at the Hall of Remembranc­e at Yad Vashem yesterday.
(Kobi Gideon/GPO) PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier lay wreaths at the Hall of Remembranc­e at Yad Vashem yesterday.

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