Greer Fay Cashman, THE JEURSALEM POST
Visiting Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili listed Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, and David Ben-Gurion amongst the Israeli leaders whom he most admires. Most of all he said, he values the lesson of Ben-Gurion. "He built a nation from nothing."
He made these comments in a Wednesday meeting with Israeli counterpart Moshe Katsav, during which the two agreed that Iran's nuclear capability must be closely monitored.
Katsav told Saakashvili that Iran is the only country in the region that continues to threaten Israel's existence, and the only one that has publicly declared its commitment to the annihilation of Israel. Iran poses a threat not only to Israel but to regional stability, said Katsav. Nevertheless, he continued, Israel has no intention of attacking Iran.
The two presidents also discussed the impasse in the peace process.
Saakashvili, who worked in international law before he entered politics, said that it is important to recognize the "flexibility and considerable courage" shown by the Israeli government in its attempts to reach a compromise with the Palestinian Authority. "But compromise works on both sides," he said.
Calling the road map an interesting initiative, the Georgian president said that he could understand the difficulties involved in its implementation.
Georgia has a strong interest in Israel resolving its issues with the Palestinians, he said. "Georgia is growing dynamically and is ready for cooperation with Israel."
Proud of the "rose revolution" that he led last November, Saakashvili said that Georgia serves as an example to those countries still under imperialist rule that have problems with democracy, and is dynamic proof that change can take place without violence. "It can happen in those countries too," he declared. "More democratization of the region will solve many problems. Sooner or later the people will have their own way and peace will prevail. There is no country which is not ripe for democracy."
Saakashvili, who has introduced massive reforms since taking office at the beginning of this year, claimed that Georgia has "the lowest level of corruption and the highest level of stability" of all the former Soviet republics.
But like the rest of the world, it has to cope with terrorists, who are trying to penetrate Georgia's borders, overturn its democracy, and impede its economic progress and ties with other countries, Saakashvili said.
Keenly interested in trade ties with Israel, Saakashvili said that the Jews of Georgia built bridges between their homeland and Israel and now the foundations of those bridges will be strengthened by politicians and business people.
There are members of his entourage, he said, who are interested in buying real estate in Jerusalem. Saakashvili would not commit himself as to whether land bought in Israel's capital would at some future stage serve the needs of Georgia's embassy, but he did not discount the idea either.
Georgia has a multi-religious, multi-ethnic population of five million people, with 550,000 Muslims and 8,000 Jews. In the 2,600 years that Jews have lived in Georgia, said Saakashvili, there has never been the faintest hint of anti-Semitism.