President Reuven Rivlin said on Thursday that Israel must fight neo-fascist and anti-Semitic forces in the world by refusing to welcome them as allies even if they are supportive of Israel diplomatically.
In an interview with CNN against the background of its new survey showing abysmal ignorance of the Holocaust and widespread anti-Semitism in Europe, Rivlin said:
“There are neo-fascist movements today that have considerable and very dangerous influence, and sometimes they also express their strong support for the State of Israel.
“You cannot say, ‘We admire Israel and want relations with your country, but we are neo-fascists.’ Neo-fascism is absolutely incompatible with the principles and values on which the State of Israel was founded,” he said.
Although he did not mention Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu by name in the interview, Rivlin’s remarks were unmistakably at odds with the prime minister’s courting of the far-right leaders of Hungary and Poland in recent months. Netanyahu was sharply criticized by opposition parties who said that their friendliness toward Israel does not make them acceptable as allies, given their reactionary ideologies.
As president, Rivlin’s role is meant to be largely ceremonial, and he does not participate in policymaking. However, he has at times — as in this case — seen fit to take a stand, even when it conflicts with the official government position.
“I meet leaders from all around the world — presidents and prime ministers,” Rivlin& said, “and they tell me that sometimes they need to work with movements like these to build coalitions and that although they are neo-fascists they are great admirers of Israel. I tell them that this is absolutely impossible.”
The CNN survey, published Tuesday, found that more than one-fifth of Europeans believe that Jews have too much influence in finance and politics, while over a third admitted that they knew nothing at all or “just a little” about the Holocaust.
The poll sampled 7,000 people, more than 1,000 each from Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Poland, and Sweden.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin shaking hands and smiling with President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman this week.