Heads of state and royals to converge on Jerusalem to mark 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is set to take center stage as at least 46 delegations from across the globe – led by heads of state and royals alike – converge on Jerusalem this week to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi-run Auschwitz death camp at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum.
Global leaders attending Thursday’s main commemoration, titled “Remembering the Holocaust: Fighting Antisemitism,” at Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center include German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin, US Vice President Mike Pence, and Britain’s Prince Charles.
Israel extended invitations to members of governments most impacted by World War II, with most of the confirmed attendees hailing from Europe.
The event will officially kick off Wednesday night at the President’s Residence, where dignitaries and some 200 others will gather for a state dinner. It will be attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Parliament Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, among other prominent Israelis.
The participation of Opposition Leader Benny Gantz – whose Blue and White list is currently leading in the polls ahead of Israel’s March 2 national elections – could not be confirmed by officials during a tour of the President’s Residence on Sunday that was attended by The Media Line.
Rivlin’s foreign media adviser, Jonathan Cummings, explained that numerous motorcades departing from hotels around Jerusalem will arrive at the premises at 6:30 Wednesday evening, with each world leader set to be personally greeted by the Israeli president. Guests will have 45 minutes to settle in and mingle until they are separated into three dining rooms.
Heads of delegations will be ushered into the primary Reception Hall where they will be seated around an intimate U-shaped table, whereas the “plus-ones” and members of security services will dine in makeshift tents erected directly adjacent to the main auditorium.
The proceedings will be livestreamed on the internet and camera crews will be permitted on-spot.
Cummings revealed that Rivlin and Prince Charles will together plant a tree in the complex’s courtyard – the same species of English oak that the latter’s father, Prince Philip, 25 years ago sowed in honor of his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, atop the Mount of Olives where she is buried.
On Thursday, all eyes will be fixated on Yad Vashem, where Rivlin will deliver another speech. The commemoration will take place from 1:30 to 4:40 pm Israel time.
Harel Tubi, director-general of Beit Hanassi (the Hebrew term for the President’s Residence), emphasized the historic nature of the event, given that only twice in Israel’s history has a comparable number of world leaders been in the country at the same time. That is, for the funerals of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and former president Shimon Peres in 1995 and 2016, respectively. The two Israelis shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize along with then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for their contribution to the signing a year earlier of the Oslo Accords, a US-mediated agreement that in the intervening years has failed to end the conflict.
During Sunday’s tour, Tubi stressed that the president’s goal was to maintain the focus on the event’s central theme: namely, commemorating the Holocaust and combatting a resurgence of global anti-Semitism.
“Our aim is to keep the message clear, without interference related to political issues or problems between countries and Israel, or among themselves,” he said. Tubi nevertheless confirmed that Rivlin would raise other specific issues during 30-minute meetings with some two dozen world leaders scheduled to take place between Tuesday and Sunday.
For his part, Netanyahu is expected to hold tête-à-têtes with Pence, Macron and Putin to discuss Iran’s nuclear program and regional interventionism. Indeed, few would be surprised if the Islamic Republic – which today openly calls for the Jewish state’s annihilation – figures prominently in sideline conversations between Israeli officials and their counterparts. This especially applies to Britain, France and Germany, which remain parties to the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal from which US President Donald Trump withdrew 18 months ago and which is widely viewed across the Israeli political spectrum as deficient.
Next Monday, Rivlin will travel to Auschwitz, Poland, where an estimated 1.1 million people – the vast majority of them Jews – were slaughtered by the Nazis from 1942 to 1945. The camp was liberated in 1945 by Soviet troops on January 27, which in 2005 was chosen as the Gregorian date for International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Rivlin will thereafter depart for Germany, where he will address the Bundestag in Hebrew, the culmination of one of the busiest weeks in the Israeli president’s storied life.