"The Impression of a Deep Friendship"

Der Standard (10/21/04)
(taken from APA, red)

Words of Praise on the Second Day of Israeli President Katzav’s Visit

During his meeting with Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, Moshe Katzav appealed to the EU to make aid to the Palestinians dependent on the condition thatterrorist threats against Israel come to a stop.

Vienna - During his meeting with Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, the Israeli President, Moshe Katzav, underlined the importance of his visit to Austria. From the talks with Austrian top leaders, he received the impression that there was a "deep friendship" between the two countries.

There will always be differences, but misunderstanding must be avoided, emphasized Katzav in his speech following a working luncheon given by Schüssel at the Federal Chancellery. The source of many problems between Austria and Israel has not been due to a lack of friendship, but much more due to misunderstanding, said Katzav.

Prevention, Not Retaliation
The Israeli president apologized for the Palestinians who were civilian victims of the fight against terror. "I am very sorry, and I apologize that civilians, women and children have lost their lives. Those are accidents; they are never a reason for attack." Palestinian terrorists hide among the civil population, rockets are fired at Israel from housing complexes, and Israel has to defend itself. Military assaults are not intended as retaliation but for reasons of prevention.

Katzav appealed to the European countries to make their economic and political support of the Palestinians dependent on their ending the terror directed toward Israeli civilians. "It must be made clear to the extremists that under no circumstances does the free world accept terrorism." The Palestinian President, Yassir Arafat, has possibilities for stopping the Palestinian terror. "But he doesn’t do it. His own head of government has complained that terror is a catastrophe for the Palestinian society."

Federal Chancellor Schüssel spoke of an historic visit. The State of Israel is a State like no other, emphasized the Federal Chancellor. The realization of Theodor Herzl’s vision guaranteed that the "monstrosities committed during the Holocaust can never happen again." Schüssel underlined that Israel and Europe shared the same basic principles, the same rules of law and the same philosophy.

"This is a special meeting on a special day," characterized the new Foreign Minister, Ursula Plassnik, coming together with Katzav in Vienna. Plassnik had been sworn in only a few hours previously. A first-time meeting with Katzav had been her absolute "wish" on that day. "The relationship to the countries of the Middle East will represent a focal point of my foreign policy agenda." Also, the EU has an interest in peace and stability in the Middle East, added Plassnik.

Austria has very good relations to the countries in the region, offering diverse experience and understanding of the problems confronting them. Plassik was happy that the relationship between Austria and Israel has become normalized. The relationship between the two countries was often embittered - lastly due to the Austrian Freedom Party’s (FPÖ) participation in the Schüssel government in year 2000. The relationship that Israel had degraded at the time was again restored to the diplomatic level in 2003.

Moreover, Plassnik pledged "to deal with the past in a responsible manner by living up to the standards Austria has set and continues to set in order to satisfy its historical responsibility." Together with Federal President Heinz Fischer and Minister of the Interior Ernst Strasser, Katzav visited the former concentration camp of Mauthausen.