"Israeli-Albanian Ties Are Strong and Growing Stronger"
Albanian Daily News
Published February 19, 2016

"The strong ties we have developed and nurtured for the past twenty-five years, and which we celebrate this year, are based on a firm foundation of common values: democracy, religious tolerance, and respect for human rights," Speaker of Israeli's Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein said in a special address to Albania's Parliament on Thursday.

Mr. Edelstein expressed his confidence that the bilateral ties between Albania and Israel could continue to grow and flourish, based on a strong basis of relationships and shared values in the following speech:

Twenty-five years is a significant
period of time over which to build a relationship, strengthen it, and nurture
it to maturity. This year, we celebrate twenty-five years of high-level
diplomatic relations between Israel and Albania, and I am proud to say that our
ties have never been better.

The State of Israel views the Republic
of Albania as a true friend in the international community. We are proud to
support Albania's Euro-Atlantic policy and welcome your increased acceptance
into European affairs through membership in NATO and gaining EU candidate

We would be happy to help the Republic
of Albania receive the reception it is due in the international community.

The ties between our countries are
strong and growing stronger, as evidenced by the opening of the permanent
Israeli Embassy in Tirana in 2012 and the mutual visits by high-level officials
and ministers--including Prime Minister Rama, President Nishani, and Israeli
Foreign Minister Liberman--as well as leaders in business and technology.

It was an honor to host Chairman Meta
and his delegation from the parliament at the Knesset two years ago, and I
thank him for hosting me and granting me the honor of addressing you today.

I cordially invite those members of
parliament who have not yet experienced Israeli hospitality to visit and help
further develop our already excellent bilateral ties.

I want to thank my Albanian
counterparts for an excellent and productive day of discussions. I hope our
work today will make a further positive contribution to the close ties between
our countries.

Mr. President, I must say that I was
extremely touched to be decorated with Skanderberg's Order. Thank you for the
honor and the moving ceremony.

The strong ties we have developed and nurtured
for the past twenty-five years, and which we celebrate this year, are based on
a firm foundation of common values: democracy, religious tolerance, and a
respect for human rights.

During the past quarter century, we
have come to identify many areas of mutual interest, especially those related
to security and fighting crime. Moreover, these foundations have given rise to
strong economic ties in fields such as energy, water, and agriculture.

We have made important progress,
especially in recent years, in developing these relationships, but I believe
there is far more we can do together.

I hope we can expand our partnerships
to new fields and additional technologies in the years to come.

These ties are also based on the
profound relationships that our two peoples have developed over hundreds of
years, since Albania provided refuge to Jews fleeing Spain. These ties were
tested during the Holocaust when universal Albanian adherence to value of Besa,
from the leadership down to the common man, ensured the survival of Albanian
Jews and refugees.,

 I know of no other example of a society in
which every last person was so selfless and committed to upholding life. As a
result, Albania was the only occupied country where the Jewish population
actually increased during the wartime years. The State of Israel and the Jewish
people will be forever grateful to the people of Albania for the depth of their
courage and fidelity to neighbors and strangers alike.

Seventy years after the Holocaust,
these values still ring true in Albania. Mr. President, I want to applaud your
commitment to standing firm against antisemitism and discrimination. In a
continent where Jews across are feeling increasingly uneasy and antisemitism is
on the rise, I believe Albania can serve as a beacon of multicultural tolerance
to ensure that the lessons of history are not forgotten.

Unfortunately, there is much work to be
done in this regard. In the past year, campaigns to divest from Israel and
boycott our goods have increased under the guise of legitimate protest against
Israeli policies. In fact,

 Israel wants nothing more than to live at
peace with her neighbors. What is not so clear, however, is whether those
neighbors have similar goals. Indeed, boycotts bolster the extremists who call
for a "Day of Rage" against Israel and urge their followers to stab passing
Israelis. We know, however, that real peace can come only by working together
with our neighbors.

To that end, we would be happy for
Albania to help develop the regional partnerships that can make the Middle East
a better place for us all.

This past year has also seen a rush to
negotiate with Iran and conclude a deal to "address" its growing nuclear
capabilities. In the excitement of concluding a deal, the world has ignored
Iran's real face.

For example, the regime's Supreme
Leader said just after concluding the deal that "there will be nothing like
Israel in 25 years." And this is not an aberration, coming from the man who
questions the Holocaust and calls Israel a cancerous tumor. Let us also not
forget Iran's track record of sponsoring terrorism through Hamas, Hezbollah,
and other groups, which the world has apparently forgiven.

Let it be clear: Iran has not changed its
tune just by signing on the dotted line.

Standing here today, I am confident the
bilateral ties between our countries can continue to grow and flourish, based
on a strong basis of relationships and shared values.

 We can work together to develop the
opportunities for further partnerships and embrace our power to transform the
world. Through these efforts, we can forge a common future to make the world a
safer, more sustainable, and more tolerant place in which our children cangrow and thrive together.

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