Bulgarian President Rumen Radev was welcomed to Israel on Tuesday by President Reuven Rivlin, who told him that two years ago he had been in Sofia to participate in the dedication of a monument memorializing the rescue 75 years ago of the Balkan nation’s Jews by the Bulgarian people.
Soon there will be a similar monument in Tel Aviv, said Rivlin. “The Jewish people will never forget this brave act at a dark time,” he declared.
Radev replied that he was proud that his people had performed such a great deed in preventing the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to Nazi extermination camps, and so doing “had written the most glorious chapter not in only in Bulgarian history but in the history of the world.”
He regretted that Bulgaria had been unable to do the same for Macedonian Jews who were not Bulgarian citizens.
Bulgaria currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Radev is particularly keen to bring about a resumption of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians during Bulgaria’s presidential tenure.
Rivlin suggested that Radev use his influence to convince Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that it is in the best interest of the Palestinians to understand that the State of Israel was established by the family of nations, and that the Jewish people came home because it had nowhere else to go.
“We and the Palestinians are cousins and children of Abraham. We can and should meet together and run a mutual economy,” Rivlin said.
“We are ready to meet with the Palestinians at any time,” he said, but stipulated that if rockets and other missiles are fired from Gaza, Israel will have no compunction about retaliating, even though Israel knows that the people of Gaza are being held hostage by Hamas.” He described Gaza as “a volcano on which we are all sitting.”
Relating to hostilities in the region in general, Rivlin warned that an escalation of tensions could exacerbate the existing situation. In this context he also spoke about Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist organizations, its regional infiltration and its determination to acquire long-range nuclear abilities.
Radev said that Bulgaria is also concerned about Iran, and is taking the matter seriously, but that problems of this nature are difficult to overcome in a short time.
Bulgaria is doing its best to encourage dialogue and to renew the peace process he said, “because this is the only way to secure peace and security for the entire region.”
He was familiar with Israel’s position on Iran, but he believed that a joint action plan, though not a solution in itself, was the best solution currently available.
Radev suggested that Israelis change their investment strategies in Bulgaria, where in his opinion they are investing too much in real estate and not enough in technology.
But it wasn’t just on the economic level that he wanted to enhance relations with Israel. He also wants to so on the political level and in the fight against terrorism.
As for any advice that he had for Israel, he thought it would very much to Israel’s benefit if Israel recovered the good relations that it once had with Turkey.