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Dear Professor Aaron Ben-Ze’ev, Dear Professor Yossi Ben-Artzi, Dear Mr. Leon H. Charney, Dear Mr. Harry Sessler,
Dear students, ladies and gentlemen,
Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation for the Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy awarded to me today. I am deeply honoured by this acknowledgement, which I accept with a sense of humility.
As I arrived today, I noted how beautiful a city Haifa is. To stand here at the summit of Mount Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean and all of Northern Israel is a breathtaking experience.
With its strong business community, its modern harbour and well developed educational system Haifa is indeed an important city, which contributes significantly to the Israeli society.
The University of Haifa is a leading institution known for its academic excellence. The university offers relevant research on some of the most crucial challenges of our time.
The first academic centre for energy studies in Israel was launched here and you are currently strengthening your expertise on maritime studies.
The University of Haifa is also known for its broad international relations. Including relations with Denmark.
Therefore, I also see this honour awarded to me as a token of the strong friendship that exists between Israel and Denmark.
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Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me and my wife to visit Israel and participate in the celebration of Israel’s 60 years anniversary.
Close relations have always existed between Denmark and Israel. And between Denmark and the Jewish People.
Through centuries Jews have been a valuable part of the Danish society. And the rescuing of Danish Jews during the Second World War stands as a remarkable symbol of our strong relations.
Danes regarded the prosecution of Jews as a horrible and utterly unacceptable violation against fellow citizens – their neighbours, their friends and their colleagues.
Therefore many brave people acted.
The rescue has created a sacred bond between our two nations. The ‘Danish’ tree at the Yad Vashem museum is a strong and beautiful testimony to this.
Denmark has from the outset supported the establishment of the Israeli state.
We fully understand why determined Jews decided to create their own state. After centuries of persecution and pain – and after the horrific Nazi genocide – there was no other solution than to create a homeland. A country for the survivors. An Israel that could support and protect its citizens.
Therefore, Denmark voted in favour of the Partition Plan in the United Nations in 1947.
Therefore, we played a part in securing the majority needed.
We chose to take a stand. And we chose to be a friend of Israel.
That is why we cherish and celebrate the 60 years anniversary of Israel.
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Over the years tens of thousands of Danes have come here to support Israel through voluntary work in Israeli Kibbutzes and other places.
They became valuable advocates for Danish-Israeli relations. Relations which are also strengthened by Danish immigrants, students, tourists and business people visiting Israel.
Both Israel and Denmark are among the world’s leading economies when it comes to research and innovation. In recent years our countries have gained strong positions in new prosperous growth areas such as Life Science and Information and Communication Technology.
Last year an agreement was signed between our two countries on industrial development and research in order to further promote cooperation within this field.
Denmark and Israel have important trade relations. But we can do more. I sincerely hope that this agreement will further stimulate our trade. And I am pleased that the initial response from our business communities has been very positive.
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Israel’s achievements over the past 60 years have been remarkable.
During just two generations, Israel has developed from a fragile agrarian society to a strong, modern and prosperous society. Founded on democratic values and sound economic principles. It is a tremendous accomplishment.
Israel has successfully integrated millions of immigrants from all over the world. And Israel is today a centre for research and international investments. Not to mention a place with a rich cultural life.
That is the Israeli miracle.
We all know that it has not been 60 easy years. Israelis have had to fight hard to keep the dream of Israel alive. And during its brief history, Israel has experienced several wars.
In this room are gathered people who have lived through wars of national survival. And students who, I hope, will never experience the same threats.
Israel deserves peace with all its neighbours and normal relations with all countries in the region and the world.
First step to achieve peace is the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The solution is two states, where Israelis and Palestinians are living, working and trading peacefully together.
I encourage Israelis as well as Palestinians to show the needed trust. To create the compromises needed to reach a settlement. The Annapolis process provides a hope for progress in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Denmark fully supports the process. The Roadmap for Peace was developed and adopted during the Danish Presidency of the European Union. It provides an important foundation for the Annapolis-process.
The process is difficult. But we are many who are ready to assist and support.
Israel deserves full support from the international community. Israel has a right to live within safe and secure borders. And the Israeli people have a right to be protected against war and terror.
We have to remember the enormous economic potential of the Middle East. Today this is not unfolded because of terror, conflict and oppression.
It is my hope and dream that this potential will be truly realized. That we will see a future where all nations and people in the Middle East live side by side in freedom and peace. Where freedom, democracy and free trade create wealth and welfare for all.
Israel has a special role to play in this regard. Because Israel is the landmark of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.
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Israel also has an important role to play when it comes to the challenges from climate change and environmental degradation.
Today, I have officially opened the new wing of the Hecht Museum. A wing connecting the archaeological maritime history with the challenges of today: “The Environment and the Sea – Uncovering the Past and Harnessing the Future”.
I am pleased that this honour was entrusted upon me. Environment and climate is a high priority for the Danish Government.
Climate change is happening. It is a serious problem that requires national, regional as well as global solutions and cooperation.
Denmark will be hosting the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009. The world will meet and try to create a new global climate agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol. It is at huge challenge, but one that we have to accomplish.
Denmark and Israel share the same concerns, if we don’t take action on climate change. If we fail, we will place a great burden on the shoulders of future generations.
We have to reduce our green house gas emissions. For two reasons: Firstly, it is the only lasting way to limit the global negative consequences of climate change. Secondly, it is the best way to reduce our dependency on oil producing countries.
To use less energy is common sense. It is good for the environment and good for the stability and security of our economies.
We need to fight climate change in ways that can sustain and reinforce economic growth. But economic growth does not have to lead to a corresponding increase in energy consumption.
Denmark has for the last 25 years had an economic growth of more than 70 percent, while our energy consumption has been almost unchanged. And at the same time we have reduced our CO2 emissions by 14 percent.
Israel has volunteered to reach targets beyond what is required by the Climate Convention. That is an act of global responsibility. I salute you for that.
High priority on renewable energy is not only good for the environment. In Denmark it has given us better energy security and reduced our dependency on oil and gas. And looking at the skyrocketing oil prices it also makes pretty good sense in business terms.
Oil prices apart, it has always made good sense for business life to build up strong competencies in the areas of energy conservation, alternative energy sources including wind power and environmental protection. In Denmark green technology now constitutes 7 percent of the annual merchandise export.
It is important that every country finds its own path to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. In Denmark we have focused on renewables such as wind power and biomass. For Israel there is a huge potential for solar energy.
Our common research and business communities have a big task ahead of them. We need a green revolution to foster a new green world economy. We – as governments – must do our part. And the business life must do their part.
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Dear students, The Israeli society is based on democratic values. All inhabitants have civil and political rights irrespective of religion, race or gender. That is the core of our free and democratic nations.
It gives you a strong voice. It gives you a special responsibility. And it gives you a special role.
I hope you will use this role.
To advance freedom, democracy and free trade in your region. To promote peace, wealth and welfare for all. And to counter the important challenge of climate change.
Allow me to once again express my sincere gratitude for the trust and honour being extended to me here today.
Thank you for your attention.