President Reuven Rivlin urged Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Spanish government to denounce the international campaign to boycott, divest and sanction Israel (also known as the BDS movement) during his State Visit to Spain on Tuesday. Roughly 20 pro-Palestinian protestors stood outside the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, calling out "murderer" and "free Palestine" while he visited.
Alluding to Spain's internal battle over Catalonia's bid for independence, Rivlin seemed to state Israel's allegiance is with Spain. "Spain is one country for us, and the problems it faces these days are internal." He added that "Our relations with all the citizens of Spain are dear to us, and we pray that the current challenge will be solved through understanding."
Rivlin expressed his wish that just as Israel is supporting the Spanish government in its attempt to quash the current Catalan push for independence, the Spanish government would reciprocate by standing up to the BDS campaign against Israel, which, as Rivlin noted, is "infected with anti-Semitic elements."
Catalan leadership responded to Rivlin's statement by lambasting him for apparently siding with Spain.
Also attending Rivlin's meeting with Rajoy was Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel, who accompanied Rivlin as part of his official delegation.
He asked Rajoy to promote legislation to prevent similar steps in the future, adding, "It is allowed, of course, to protest—but it cannot be allowed to cross the border into boycotts."
Rivlin stated Israel would be pleased to see Spain change its voting pattern in international fora so it expresses the two countries' positive relationship. "Decisions are made in international fora that undermine integrity and intelligent thought."
"I would warmly remind you," said Rivlin. "That the King of Spain is also known as the King of Jerusalem, and to come to UNESCO and say that there is no connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish people is not only ignorance, it is an affront to intellectual integrity. So I would request that you ensure that you are not taking part in decisions that result from unrelated political struggles."
With the 30th anniversary of the establishment of relations between Israel and Spain, Rivlin thanked Rajoy for his warm welcome and expressed his appreciation for the cooperation in the various fields between Israel and Spain. He stressed that Israel held a sincere desire to preserve and deepen existing ties both in security and in the fields of economy and innovation. "The secret of our relationship rests on a strong bond not only between states, but also between peoples," said the President. "The historical family roots of many Israelis are planted here."
He additionally expressed his condolences over the terror attack that struck Spain last August, and stressed that the entire free world must join forces to ensure the eradication of terrorism. "Terrorism and religious extremism are a global threat that affects all of us. Unfortunately, we have experience in facing this, and are ready to contribute by all means at our disposal to combat this phenomenon."
Both leaders went on to discuss the regional situation in the Middle East. Rivlin stressed that Iran was serving as a subversive factor, leading to the establishment of a Shi’ite axis in Syria and across the entire Middle East, in an attempt to exploit the crises in the region. "Israel is closely following the increasing Iranian presence in Syria and is operating according to the clear red lines we have defined," said Rivlin, stressing that "the terror Iran exports is a threat to the entire world."
On the issue of the nuclear deal, Rivlin told Rajoy that Israel and the West should not allow a country like Iran, which supports terrorism and has made calls at the UN to destroy Israel, to have nuclear capabilities.
"We must work together to prevent this at all costs. The current agreement does not benefit Israel or Europe, and even endangers the security and stability of the region."
Rivlin added that were the agreement not to change, "It must be ensured, that all the clauses of the agreement be strictly adhered to, and even improved for the day after it expires."
Rivlin stressed that while "Israel will know how to defend itself," it is imperative that "anyone who supported the agreement with Iran ensure that its leaders receive the necessary warnings both through sanctions and additional measures."
The two also discussed relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the situation in Gaza. Rivlin stressed that the State of Israel expects the return of the fallen IDF soldiers and the Israeli civilians held by terror group turned political party Hamas.
"Hamas in Gaza is violating Israeli sovereignty by building attack tunnels that cross Israeli territory with the aim of harming Israeli civilians in a way that Israel will not be able to leave unanswered.
He added that at the same time, Israel was working to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, but that unfortunately Hamas was diverting resources intended to rehabilitate Gaza's civilian population for use in its military apparatus, in what is a cynical exploitation of civilians for terrorist activities.
After the meeting, a cooperation agreement was signed by the Israeli and Spanish ambassadors, thus renewing the historic agreement signed between the two countries in 1987. The agreement mentions cooperation in various fields as well as mutual understandings in issues of education, culture, science, and scholarships for students and lecturers. The agreement also included a declaration of intent to work together on education against racism and anti-Semitism as well as on Holocaust education.