Knesset speaker in Ireland to meet president

Reuven Rivlin

Reuven Rivlin

Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin is to visit Ireland today at the invitation of his Irish counterpart.

Mr Rivlin will be meeting senior Irish politicians including President Michael D Higgins, who took office late last year, as well as members of the Ireland-Israel Friendship League.

He is being accompanied on the trip by Labour politician Yitzhak Herzog, whose father, President Chaim Herzog, was born in Belfast and whose grandfather was the chief rabbi in Ireland.

The visit follows that of the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil, Sean Barrett, who was in Israel in July.

Mr Rivlin told the Irish Times that Israelis and the Irish had a lot in common.

"Both our nations fought against imperialism for the right to self-determination," he said. "I know there is widespread support in Ireland for the Palestinian cause. We would like the Irish to understand that among friends we can agree to disagree.

"It is legitimate to criticise us, but first you must know the facts. They must understand that if a future Palestinian state could threaten the very existence of the state of Israel then we must tread very carefully."

According to the Knesset, Mr Rivlin is the highest public figure from Israel invited on an official visit to Ireland since President Herzog in 1985.

Last updated: 11:31am, January 18 2012