Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin was forced to enter the Irish Parliament House through the back door on Wednesday due to pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocking his way. Rivlin was in Ireland this week on invitation from his Irish counterpart, Parliament Speaker Sean Barrett.
Rivlin met with senior Irish politicians, including President Michael Higgins, who took office late last year, and members of the Ireland-Israel Friendship League. Rivlin is accompanied by MK Isaac Herzog, whose father, former President Chaim Herzog, was born in Belfast and whose grandfather was the Irish Chief Rabbi.
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Rivlin is the highest Israeli public figure to make an official visit to Ireland since President Herzog did so in 1985.
Rivlin requested to speak with the pro-Palestinian protestors directly, but his security personnel did not allow him to do so. In an interview from Dublin with Yaakov Ahimeir on Israel Radio Rivlin noted that his impression from conversations with various Irish residents is that Israel enjoys some sympathy for its positions, though it comes along with much criticism: "The criticism towards Israel from Ireland is very severe."
Higgins told Rivlin that he hold nothing against Israel and expressed a desire to visit Israel and speak to the Knesset. Rivlin promised the Irish president that he would invite him for an official visit to Israel. After Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008, the Irish president signed a petition calling for a boycott on Israeli products.
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