The current President is as happy to travel as the previous one. Alexander Van der Bellen will be in Israel in the coming days to complete a round program.
When it comes to traveling, Alexander Van der Bellen does not fare much behind his predecessor Heinz Fischer. The Federal President completed three dozen state and working visits during his first two years in office – most recently in the week before the 300th anniversary of the Principality of Liechtenstein. Most recently, the 75-year-old was a folk and presented himself with national heroes, who claimed the Republic for themselves: Marcel Hirscher and Austroamerikaner Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This coming week, however, marks one of the most important voyages, a delicate diplomatic event in the face of the political minefield in the Middle East and the strained past of the Nazi era. This Sunday, Van der Bellen, head of a delegation of entrepreneurs, scientists and cultural workers, together with Ministers Heinz Fassmann and Margarete Schramböck, set out on a visit to Israel. He follows an invitation by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, whom he met in November during his stopover at Schwechat Airport.
Freedom Party boycott. An Israeli visit is never a routine matter for a representative of Austria, especially for a head of state in the year 33 after the election of Kurt Waldheim and in the year two of the renewed ban of the FPÖ minister by Israel. For now, nothing will change in the boycott, at least for Karin Kneissl, the non-party Foreign Minister on the FPÖ ticket.
For Van der Bellen, who has already traveled to Israel as Greens leader and also paid a visit to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the trip to the Holy Land expresses his attachment to Israel. The fight against anti-Semitism is important to him.
During his five-day visit, he will have the opportunity to act as a solicitor and admit the co- responsibility of Austrians in the Holocaust – in table speeches, in statements with Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu, which host a state banquet for the guest from Vienna, and not least by his reverence before the Victims of the Holocaust in Yad Vashem. A visit to the Holocaust Memorial and the Herzl-Berg is a must for foreign guests, especially from Austria. Equally compulsory, is a “decency visit” at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah and President Mahmoud Abbas, which is currently shaken by a government crisis.
Meetings with Peace Library students, members of the Orthodox commune of Kyriat Mattersdorf and former Austrians in Tel Aviv complete the President’s visit to Israel.