Flemish region makes first trip to Israel
Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters last week made a three-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian areas, the first time he has visited that part of the world. Peeters was at the head of a delegation that included key business leaders and representatives of Flanders’ universities.
Kris Peeters leads a delegation of business and education representatives
Peeters had talks with foreign minister Daniel Ayalon, energy minister Uzi Landau and industry minister Shalom Simhon. A planned meeting with Israeli president Shimon Peres was cancelled.
He also visited the Weizmann scientific institute in Tel Aviv. During a visit to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, he joked about the recent controversy over a leaked email frommedia minister Ingrid Lieten. Later he planted a tree on Jewish National Fund (JNF) property in the Jerusalem Hills, close to Yad Kennedy, the monument to former US president John F Kennedy. He also visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and discussed the construction of a new memorial museum in Mechelen dedicated to those deported during the occupation.
According to reports, a number of companies are looking to create contacts in the Middle East, including with a view to winning contracts on the gas extraction work off Israel’s Mediterranean shores.
“I represent the vision of a new type of industrial policy,” said Peeters, in a speech to the JNF, “and during my term in office, I intend to put Flanders up among the five leading economies of Europe. I regard the concept of 27 countries of a united Europe as very important for the future of the continent. At present, the burning issue is the continued existence of European solidarity for purposes of aid to those countries with an economy in crisis.”
In the Palestinian territory, Peeters was met by first minister Salem Fayyad and spoke with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. He also paid a visit to the new town of Rawabi near Ramallah on the left bank of the Jordan, where some of the Flemish companies in the delegation hope to win construction contracts. The university representatives, meanwhile, sought to forge academic and research links.
The tree Peeters planted is a terebinth (Pistacia palaestina), mentioned in the book of Genesis, and which gave its name to the valley where David fought Goliath. “I intend to come back here to visit and water the tree,” said Peeters. JNF director Avinoam Binder replied: “The tree needs to be watered once a week, on Wednesdays. You’re very welcome to take part on a regular basis.”