MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the two countries signed three deals that seek to enhance ties.
In his speech during his meeting with Netanyahu, Duterte told the Israeli leader, “We share the same passion for peace. We share the same passion for human beings. But we also share the same passion of not allowing our country to be destroyed by those who [have] corrupt ideologies.”
Netanyahu welcomed at his office Duterte and some members of the Philippine delegation to sign deals on the temporary employment of home-based Filipino caregivers, scientific cooperation, and bilateral direct investment.
It was Netanyahu who invited Duterte to visit Israel. Duterte was supposed to visit Israel in May 2017 but it was cancelled as the government dealt with the Marawi siege.
Duterte, the first sitting Philippine president to visit Israel, is also set to meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday.
The President is also expected to tour the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum, the Old City of Jerusalem, and the Open Doors monument.
The monument commemorates the Philippines’ opening of its borders to Jews during the Holocaust.
Duterte will also visit an Israeli military base to view advanced weapons and equipment.
Israel views its ties with the Philippines as special as the latter provided refuge to around 1,300 Jews who escaped the Holocaust. The Philippines also cast a crucial vote in a United Nations (UN) resolution that led to the creation of the Jewish state.
The Philippines, under President Manuel L. Quezon, reinforced the Commonwealth government’s open-door policy to accommodate the Jews who escaped from Europe between 1935 and 1941.
In 1947, the Philippines, under the administration of President Manuel Roxas, cast the tie-breaker vote at the UN to separate Israel from Palestine. The two countries established diplomatic ties 10 years later.
The tough-talking leader’s visit to Israel is keenly watched in light of the controversial remarks he made two years ago when he compared himself to Germany's Adolf Hitler and said he would be happy to slaughter 3 million drug addicts like what the Nazi leader did to Jews.
Human rights groups have slammed the Israeli government’s invitation to Duterte. Manila has largely ignored protests on the President’s visit to the Jewish state.
After the trip to Israel, Duterte will fly to Jordan, where he is expected to sign agreements on labor, defense and foreign affairs. His visit to Jordan will also be the first for a sitting Philippine president.