Speech by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander at a dinner on the occasion of the visit to the Netherlands by President Shimon Peres of Israel
The Hague, 1 October 2013
Mr President, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Mr President, it is my great honour to welcome you to the Netherlands.
Your presence here fills me with gratitude, and a little embarrassment. I’m grateful to have the chance to welcome you to The Hague, and embarrassed that you have gone to so much trouble to be here. I had hoped to meet you in Jerusalem, as is customary. After all, the younger generation is supposed to visit the elder, not the other way around.
You have dedicated your entire career to building the Jewish state, from your youth in Kibbutz Geva and the socialist Zionist Youth movement, via your government service and political achievements, right up to the present day. Your devotion to duty is an example to everyone.
You are admired around the world, not only for your part in the Middle East peace process, but also for the way you are now fulfilling the role of president of Israel and for your vision of the world and the future. When we spoke this morning you reaffirmed that vision. To quote your own words from a recent interview, ‘Faith triumphs more often than cynicism or scepticism.’ In these difficult times your wisdom is precious – in Europe certainly, but also and especially in the Middle East.
In the course of your life you have seen the relationship between Israel and the Netherlands blossom and flourish. The Netherlands is very attached to Israel. That is clear from our solidarity with your country. From our support during the wars Israel has had to fight. It is clear from the close socioeconomic ties we share. And from the level of Dutch public interest in Israel’s past, present and future.
Israel still faces existential challenges. Its continued existence without further threat cannot be taken for granted. The Netherlands will continue to support Israel in its efforts to form an undisputed part of the global community, to work with Europe, and to integrate in the region, so it can live in peace and security.
We will continue to help Israel shape its future. For the Netherlands, it is a future closely bound up with progress in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, geared towards a two-state solution.
The Netherlands therefore wishes wherever possible to help build peace and security in the Middle East. To this end, we use our strong ties with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to encourage the parties to achieve a lasting peace. Together, we are putting our shoulders to the wheel in several areas that are close to our hearts, such as innovation and water management. With regard to water management, the Netherlands has long worked with Israel, the Palestinians and other countries in the region to promote cooperation and improve water supplies. And we will continue these efforts.
The Netherlands’ engagement with Israel runs far deeper and goes back way further than the bilateral relations between our governments. It was a Dutch banker from The Hague, Jacobus Kann, who made possible the purchase of the land on which the first modern districts of Tel Aviv were built, more than 100 years ago. The same Jacobus Kann was the first leader of the Jewish National Fund in the Netherlands, which is still active, 100 years later, raising money in the Netherlands for activities in Israel. The Fund made it possible to plant forests dedicated to Queen Wilhelmina in 1970, Queen Juliana in 1974 and my mother, Queen Beatrix, in 1980. In line with this tradition, the Fund has attached my name to a water project in the Negev desert.
Mr President, you may have recently celebrated your ninetieth birthday, but you are renowned for being young at heart. And you have embraced modern media as a way to reach out to people. Your timelines on Facebook and Twitter are almost as lengthy and rich as your ‘real’ life has been.
Your spiritual legacy is assured in your foundation, the Peres Center for Peace, which funds and carries out innovative projects that can unite Israelis and Palestinians. The Netherlands has been closely involved with such projects in the past. Like the Twinned Peace Football Schools programme, where boys and girls played in mixed Palestinian and Israeli teams. And the joint Israeli-Palestinian diplomat training course organised by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations at Clingendael here in The Hague. Activities like these bring peace closer.
The Netherlands is delighted that both parties are willing to engage in direct talks, and we fully support the United States’ efforts to make this happen. I am optimistic about the outcome, not least because you – in your present position – can guide this process and hopefully exert your influence. The contours of the solution are familiar enough. But this is also about harnessing the power of political persuasion – on both sides.
Let me close by repeating again your own insight: ‘that faith triumphs more often than cynicism’.
And with those words I invite you to raise a glass with me.
To life. To your health, Mr President. To your ideals, and to Israel’s future in a peaceful and secure region.