Dear Excellencies, dear friends of Norway.
I extend a warm welcome to you all.
Norway’s national day pays tribute to our Constitution from 1814. The constitution marked the beginning of modern, sovereign and democratic Norway.
Norway is proud of our long history of friendship and our strong bilateral ties with Israel.
We have enjoyed diplomatic relations for 69 years. Our bilateral relations are growing stronger and deeper.
It is a priority for my Government to strengthen our bilateral ties and cooperation even further, in areas such as innovation, trade and technology.
Therefore, in the first week of June, we are organizing a business conference in Tel Aviv, in cooperation with the innovation authorities in both countries and our chambers of commerce.
We continue to enjoy extensive cultural exchanges. Norwegians appreciate the Israeli taste for our kosher salmon, as well as for other Atlantic fish. We are thirsty of your high-tech, and of your success in innovation.
The Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund is a big public investor in Israel. We are at the moment enjoying two direct flights per week between Tel Aviv and Oslo.
Our defence strategy includes concerns for the stability in the southern flanks of NATO. Norway participates in operations to combat terrorism there, including with own troops. We recognize Israel’s important role in this regard.
Today, we fly both Sami and Norwegian flags.
“Norway is established on the territory of two peoples – the Norwegian and the Sami peoples”, our king Harald V said in 1997. He apologized for the injustice the Norwegian state had inflicted on the Sami people through the exercise of a brutal policy of assimilation and repression.
The flag represents Sápmi, the Sami people and nation.
Sápmi stretches from Norway over Sweden and Finland, and into the Kola Peninsula in Russia.
The Sami presence in this area goes back twelve thousand years. Today, less than 80 thousand identify as Sami; more than half of them in Norway.
We just marked the centenary of the Sami battle for their rights and the preservation of Sami culture and livelihood.
As a young student, I supported the Sami people’s fight for their rights. Therefore, it is a particular pleasure to fly their flag, together with our Norwegian one, on this Constitution Day.
We fly the flag also to show how proud we are for Keiino’s participation at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.
Keiino has Sami roots. They refer to the Sami battle for recognition of Sami identity in the lyrics, and combines Sami traditional joik with Scandinavian rock.
We hope they win tomorrow, after their excellent performance in the semi-final. We count on Israeli votes: “Norvège douze points”!
We are equally proud to host a mini film festival of two legendary Sami movies at Herzliya Cinematheque this week. The screening tonight is at 9 PM, and you are all cordially invited.
I particularly welcome the main actor in both movies, Mikkel Gaup. After the national anthems, he will take the stage, to perform a Sami joik.
In our modern Constitution, the Sami people, together with our Jewish community, enjoy a special status as national minorities.
Over the last year, we have witnessed a dangerous degradation of the ceasefire between Israel and the militant Palestinian factions in Gaza.
Norway is crystal clear in its condemnation of indiscriminate firing of rockets from Gaza towards Israel. Norway insists on the responsibility to protect civilians in zones of conflict.
There has been a dangerous economic decline in both Gaza and the West Bank. The fiscal deficits are becoming unmanageable for the Palestinian Authority.
Norway is actively engaged in finding ways to alleviate both, in cooperation with Israel and the Palestinian Authority and the donors.
However, the main issues between Israelis and Palestinians are political. Norway remains strongly committed to a negotiated two-state solution, and we urge both sides to engage constructively and to find ways to get to peace for their two peoples.
Again, I thank you all for coming and sharing this celebration with us.
Thank you for our enduring friendship.
I now give the floor to Minister Aoub Kara.