Mr. Prime Minister,
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
I am standing before you as the first President of the Republic of
Croatia to visit the State of Israel. I am profoundly aware of the
historic significance of this moment, and sincerely grateful for the
opportunity given me to address you.
This is the proper place and the proper occasion to get rid of the
ballast of the past, which placed a strain on our relations over the
This is the proper time and place for saying what has to be said so
that Israel can accept my country as a sincere friend and, I hope,
future partner - not only in the interest of our two countries, but
also in the interest of security and peace in the region and worldwide.
What I am going to say, I will say with complete openess and
sincerely, because in this regard there is not and there should not be
place for any unclarities or doubts.
I am speaking on behalf of democratic Croatia, which upholds the
traditions of antifascist and freedom-loving Croatia from the times of
the Second World War.
I am speaking of behalf of that Croatia which bows with respect and
reverence to the memory of the millions of the victims of the
Let me, first of all, repeat literally what I said yesterday to
President Katsav: I am using every opportunity to ask for forgiveness
from all those who were harmed by the Croats at any time. Of course -
from Jews in the first place.
As President of the Republic of Croatia, I profoundly and sincerely
regret the crimes committed against the Jews during the Second World
War, on the territory of the Quisling-entity called Independent State
of Croatia that was neither independent, nor Croatian.
Just as the majority of the Croatian people knew, at the time, that
their place was with the antifascist resistance, also led by a Croat,
Marshall Tito, present-day Croatia knows that it can build its future
and its relations with other countries only on the basis of firm
commitment to democracy and freedom, the foundations of which include
the imperishable values of antifascism.
Over short period of time, in the struggle for independence and
directly thereafter, the tragically misdesigned concept of unity of all
Croats resulted, on the one hand, in the denial of the dark pages of
our history, and, on the other, in the search for models precisely in
That time passed and will not come back.
We are fully aware of our responsibility in investigating, trying
and convicting war criminals, regardless of their nationality and of
the time when those crimes were committed.
There is never too late for trying war criminals.
On behalf of the Republic of Croatia I offer the hand of friendship
and cooperation. We shall not find it difficult to identify common
interests and avenues for building our bilateral relations and
cooperation on the international scene.
Our relations cannot and will not develop to the detriment of any
country. Our cooperation, I am confident, will benefit both Israel and
Croatia, and the cause of world peace.
The State of Isarel and its citizens are entitled to existence and
to life in peace and security. The Palestinians are also entitled to
life in peace and security and - like any other people - to life in
their own state. Innocent victims are falling today on both sides. If
war has marked Israel's past since its creation, if generations of
Palestinians have also grown up amidst war, war is not and should not
be the future of either Israel or the Palestinians.
The future of both the Middle East and of the whole world must be
peace, lasting and just peace. I am saying this as president of a state
which won its independence in an imposed war, and believe me, I know
what I am saying when I claim that it is better to negotiate for ten
years than to wage war for ten days!
I am saying candidly and clearly what I think and believe. We need
not always agree, there may be things about which we shall disagree,
but what is essential is the opportunity for open dialogue.
It will help us to get know each other better, to break down
prejudices and destroy all reserves - where they might still exist.
Only in such a way we shall be able to lay the foundations for fruitful
and mutually beneficial cooperation in many fields, the economic one in
I have come to Israel at a time when everything on the world stage
is changing. The world has responded to the challenge of global
terrorism by the action of the antiterrorist coalition led by the
United States of America. This coalition, to which both Israel and
Croatia belong, is also being joined by countries, which opposed one
another until yesterday.
The fight against global terrorism is neither a conflict of
civilization, nor a clash of cultures, nor a war of religions.
Terrorism has no ethnic or religious background. This is why the
conflict we are witnessing, but also sharing, is simply a conflict
between civilization and non- civilization.
I have no doubt whatsoever as to who will eventually emerge as the
winner in the conflict, waged not only by military means. However, as
we should clearly note, the conflict will take time and will also
involve casualties on our side. But the stakes are too high and too
important for keeping aloof. Our future in peace, security and freedom
is at stake.
Let me conclude:
I have come to Israel in order to remove the liability of the past, which strained our relations.
I have come to present my country as it is, although we are far from being ideal.
I have come to lay the foundations for long-term, comprehensive
cooperation to the benefit of both parties and to the detriment of
I have come to gain knowledge about Israel and to help Israel gain knowledge about Croatia.
I have come as a friend. Hence I conclude my address to you, elected
representatives of the Jewish people in Israel, and to the
representatives of the Israeli citizens of Arab origin, with the word
I would like to be the future of Israel, of the Middle East and of the world.