Mr. Prime Minister, Honourable members of the Knesset,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,
To be invited to speak before this highest chamber of Israel's democracy is a great honour.
For me as President of the Republic of Croatia, this is an occasion of complex significance and great importance. It calls for a very high degree of sensitivity as well as responsibility.
Are these higher in the face of the past or in the face of the future of my nation and, consequently, of Croat – Jewish and of Croatian - Israeli relationship? My answer is: ‘In this respect, the past and the future should be indelibly interwoven in our present, by wisdom and goodness, by the love for truth, the love for peace and reconciliation.’
Justice and reconciliation are two leitmotifs of my political engagement in the life of my nation forged in war.
Sensitivity, responsibility, justice, reconciliation. The deadly experience of wars makes these postulates of my political ethic even more acute, makes them sharper in the tone against the dull pains of the wounded hearts of individuals and scarred fabrics of the postconflict society. This is the appropriate occasion and the place to check them again, this time against the horrifying backdrop of the Holocaust.
A couple of years ago at this very same place, my predecessor expressed his deep regret for the crimes committed against the Jews during the Second World War in the territory of the Quisling entity called Independent State of Croatia. His statement helped the ice melt; it gave an important impetus to the Croatian – Israeli relationship. What I am going to say today is not meant to please or melt ice. For, there is no ice between us friends. What I am going to say is to make the truth clear and visible.
Yes, there was a widespread antifascist resistance movement in Croatia. Yes, all the Presidents of modern time Croatia were antifascists. I, myself, am a son of Tito’s partisan. But, yes, the truth is that, notwithstanding the deviant circumstances in Europe, one of the most horrifying, criminal Nazi collaborationist regimes in Europedid emerge and was admitted, by both support and reckless negligence, within the body of the Croatian people. In the twisted minds of the Ustasha, non-Aryan - Serbs, Jews and Roma, as well as Ustasha’s political opponents - had to be wiped off the face of the Earth. The Ustasha brutality was terrible, their crimes abominable. We doknow this, but knowing is not enough. Again and again, we must face the embarrassing fact that - putting aside the glorious antifascist resistance - there were members of our people who were systemically organized in executing a horrid crime against humanity. A poisonous viper was let sneak out of the heart of our nation in an attempt to exterminate Serbs, Jews and others for just who they are or for what they stand for.
We should look into our heart, and reconcile ourselves with the darkest stain in our history and our political culture. We should know: now the snake is weakened, but it is still there. It is there, deep in our hearts where the real reconciliation begins. We should always remember and we should live with the victims together, in the remembrance. This is our responsibility. For, our children should know what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong. It is there where true justice starts.
And here I am, standing before the Parliament of the Jewish State, and more important, before the children of Croatia, and with no ambiguity, I apologize, and I ask Holocaust survivors’, your and all the victims’ forgiveness.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is now that the future stands clear before us as an opportunity. Sensitivity and responsibility, justice and reconciliation are not just about admitting one’s own wrongdoings and offering an apology. This is also undoing injustices wherever possible. In reality, of course, nothing is simple. Criminal plunder and pillage of the property of the Holocaust victims during WWII, were, unfortunately, followed by the revolutionary communist disrespect for private property. The denationalization process has so far covered only victims of the communist disappropriation. The overall scope of injustice done was so great that justice can never be served in its entirety. However, it would be a just thing to do if the Holocaust victims were also included in the Croatian restitution legislation. Saying this, I am firmly convinced that amendments to the restitution law that would soon ensue should also include the Holocaust victims, either individuals or their heirs or local communities, and that the most appropriate ways of restitution or just compensations should be granted to them too.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Going back to the future, during the last two days of my visit to Israel, the two words that have been repeated most frequently were: peace and cooperation. Peace for Israel, peace for Palestine. Cooperation between our countries.
Our experience teaches us that peace is not possible unless all the parties reconcile themselves with reality. It teaches us that peace is not possible without compromise. In today’s small and interdependent world there should not be a classical dichotomy between winners and losers. If we want peace to reign, all should be winners. Otherwise, there will be no peace. The two-state solution for the crisis in Israel should therefore start and end with mutual recognition of the Jewish State of Israel by the Palestinians and of the PalestinianState by the State of Israel. We have learned a painful lesson, and it is our duty to warn: a dream about annihilating others ends in living in nightmare. Millennia of accumulated wisdom of the people of Israel in overcoming crisis, strengthens our confidence that you would know how to reach lasting peace, and when to catch Kairos in his swift flight. The opportunity usually does not last long.
Croatia is neither big nor mighty. Unlike Israel, we have no decisive responsibility in shaping the world. But forged in war, we firmly stand for just peace in which all are winners.
Croatia is about to join the European Union next year. The peace craving Israel is about to get yet another friend and ally in the EU. Croatia has just elected new Government. The constellation of opportunities at this point is very intense. We should together grasp the momentum. We have agreed that we have to step up our cooperation. Croatia admires Israel’s success in creating one of the world’s most successful economies of knowledge. We wish to benefit from the Israeli miracle of knowledge, and we shall do our utmost to make our cooperation in the field of the knowledge based economy as smooth as possible. We are looking forward to an increase in Israeli investments, and we have agreed that red tape obstacles should be removed in order to pave your investors’ ways to Croatia.
We offer our friendship and partnership for the future benefit of our countries and peoples.