State visit from Israel: His Majesty's speech
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to welcome such a longstanding and true friend of Norway to Oslo and to the Royal Palace. Since the creation of Israel 66 years ago, you Mr President have been one of your country’s most distinguished leaders.
This is the second time that I have the honour to be your host here at the Royal Palace. The first time was in connection with the commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1999. Then you were among the guests of honour, together with former President Clinton, former Prime Minister Barak and the late President Arafat.
I have been told that when you were invited this time, you said that you would come once the birds had returned after the cold winter. Now both you and the birds are here.
The month of May is an appropriate time to celebrate the warm and close friendship between our countries. Israel has just celebrated its national day. We will celebrate ours later this week. And in May, in 1949, Norway voted in the General Assembly for the admission of Israel to the United Nations, thereby recognising the state of Israel.
President Peres, you have played a leading role in building Israel. Your father took you to Tel Aviv from Eastern Europe in 1934. As a young man you joined Israel’s navy and the Ministry of Defence. You were a founding father of the Labour Party. You have been head of both your government and state. When you step down as President in a few weeks’ time, you will be able to look back at a political career spanning more than 67 years.
You have been a strong advocate for a peaceful and prosperous Middle East in which Israel is recognised as having a rightful place. You have had a vision of Israel as a meeting point between east and west, and a locomotive for technological and industrial development and economic growth in the region.
This year, Norway is celebrating the bicentenary of the adoption of our Constitution. One of the most important amendments that have since been made to the Constitution is the repeal, in 1851, of the prohibition against Jews entering Norway.
In 1942, under Nazi occupation, the Norwegian police arrested Norwegian Jews. It is a sad fact that part of the story of the Holocaust unfolded in our country. Norway has apologised and has sought to make reparation. But we shall never forget.
Today, Norwegian Jews make up a vibrant, strong community, which is an integral part of Norway. Together we will continue to create a Norway where the children and young people of Jewish families feel secure and are free to be themselves and to keep their culture alive.
President Peres, in Norway we know you as a leader of vision. Your ambition for Israel has been to build a democratic, inclusive, egalitarian and right-based nation. First and foremost we see you as Israel’s most prominent and courageous architect for peace. You have said: “The most important thing in life is to dare. The most complicated thing in life is to be afraid. The smartest thing in the world is to try to be a moral person.”
In 1994, you were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize here in Oslo together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for your courage and determination to bring about peace. The year before, you had come to Oslo to overcome the last hurdles in the secret talks with the Palestinians. The Oslo Accords were a historic breakthrough. The spirit of those negotiations – the “Oslo-spirit” – is still remembered as a crucial factor for the progress made in the talks.
I sincerely hope that the spirit of Oslo can again bring about urgently needed progress in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. More than 20 years after the Oslo Accords, we are encouraged by your continued commitment and active engagement to help settle the outstanding and complex issues. We wish you every success.
Today there is an extensive cultural and economic cooperation between our two countries. It is my hope that this state visit will further strengthen the close ties between Israel and Norway.
I would like to ask you all to join me in a toast to you Mr President, to the people of Israel and to the good relations between our two countries.