Foreign Minister on 60th Anniversary of the Foundation of the State of Israel

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs (05/03/2008)

"Like no other state, Israel has been called into question and challenged from the day of its foundation. Between Galilee and Negev, generations of Israelis have contributed impressively to the development of the country and led it to outstanding achievements in many areas. During all my stays I have been impressed by Israel’s cultural wealth, traditions and creative power,” stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Foundation of the State of Israel on 8 May 2008.

“Austria was and remains a state of Jewish fate and Jewish fates. It was Austrian Theodor Herzl in Vienna who formulated the vision of a “homeland for the Jewish people” in Palestine at the turn of the century. Sixty years ago the dream of a Jewish state came true,” continued Plassnik.“ But relations between Austria and Israel also carry a special historical burden. Many Austrians participated actively in the appalling crime and break with civilization that was the Shoah, in the malign spirit of displacing the spiritual. For a long time our relations were overshadowed by the crimes of Nazi terror and the very late assumption of responsibility for the persecution, displacement and murdering of Austrian Jews in the Shoah,” stated Plassnik.

“In recent years there have been many changes in the way we deal with history. Our sincere commitment to Austria’s responsibility for the victims of the Nazi regime has had a positive impact on Austrian-Israeli relations. It marked the beginning of a new chapter. Today we are linked by ties of trustful partnership and strong friendship,” emphasized Plassnik.

“Our history has resulted in our determination and commitment to the conviction of “never again.” Today, we – Israelis and Austrians - can work on our future together in freedom. What we want is peaceful co-existence in Austria, Europe and in the world, characterized by mutual acknowledgement, tolerance and respect. And this is the key challenge: to make this new Europe a permanent positive image countering the bitterest experience of our past. What started as a European peace project must become a worldwide pillar of peace in the 21st century,” stated Plassnik.

“Today, as a partner in the European Union and the United Nations, we are making our contribution on the path to peace and security for Israel, Palestine and the entire region. It is a thorny path, calling for courage, but also endurance and persistence. Yet it is clear that sustainable peace will only be possible on the basis of a two-state solution and with full respect for Israel’s right to exist. Austria will not strike any compromises in this respect,” Plassnik stressed. “It is our responsibility as a neighbor and friend to provide active support to both Israelis and Palestinians in their quest for peace and to do so persistently on the basis of solidarity. We shall continue to bear this responsibility in the future,” concluded Plassnik.