by Joshua Levitt
Israel and the Caucasus Mountains nation of Georgia that is on-track to deepen its economic integration into the European Union signed a bilateral economic cooperation agreement on Tuesday, creating a commission to expand commercial relations and lower trade barriers.
At the start of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said, “These intensified bilateral ties and enhanced people-to-people contacts are based on a logical continuation of our 26 centuries of exemplary friendship between the Jewish and Georgian people. I remember our history. The Jewish people first came to Georgia after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BC. Since then Georgia has become your second home, where they were accepted, loved, respected and made part of the Georgian world. And this will continue and we’ll make sure that we strengthen this relationship.”
Garibashvili also addressed Monday’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day: “This commemoration strengthens the efforts to raise the awareness about the Holocaust around the world. The horrible Holocaust has also touched our people. And it remains part of our collective memory.”
“One of the known examples is the tragic fate of a prominent Georgian priest, David Peradze, who lived in Poland during the war and was imprisoned and killed in the concentration camp of Auschwitz for helping Jewish families during the persecutions. We are always proud to say that in Georgia, anti-Semitism has been an unknown phenomenon through our history and this will be forever.”
Netanyahu noted that beyond visiting Georgia’s immediate neighbors, Garibashvili chose Israel for his first truly overseas official visit.
“Today our Foreign Minister has signed an agreement on a joint economic commission. We have every area to cooperate in; technology and water, agriculture, education, everything. And we are open to further this cooperation in all fields. We’ve been doing that, we’ll continue to do that. I’m sure your visit enhances that. That is part of our quest to achieve security, prosperity and peace.”
“When I say peace, Prime Minister, I mean real peace. The peace we expect with our Palestinian neighbors is one in which they finally recognize the right of Israel to exist as the Jewish state, the state of the Jewish people. After all, we’ve only been here, about 4,000 years. So we expect that reciprocity,” Netanyahu said.
“Yet I’m concerned that in the Palestinian press we’ve had continual references to Nazi Germany, comparing Israel and Israel’s leaders to Nazis, saying that we carry Nazi genes. This is a way of poisoning the atmosphere for peace. It must stop. This whole incitement against Israel must cease if we’re to have the genuine peace that we deserve and our Palestinian neighbors deserve as well,” the prime minister of Israel said.