Belgian PM opens new embassy in Ramat Gan

Yves Leterme officially opens new embassy in impressive 20 story Sason Hogi tower.

September 5, 2011 03:15
3 minute read.
Shimon Peres and Belgian PM Yves Leterme

Peres and Belgian PM 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme, currently on his first visit to Israel, officially opened the new Belgian Embassy in Ramat Gan’s impressive 20- story Sason Hogi tower, one of several Ramat Gan high-rise buildings that now house foreign diplomatic and economic missions.

The very personable Leterme cut the striped ribbon in Belgium’s national colors of black, yellow and red and then unveiled the plaque in the presence of immediate neighbors from the embassies of South Africa, Ghana, Colombia and Austria, the EU ambassador, Ramat Gan Mayor Zvi Bar, members of the Belgium- Israel Association and representatives of Israel’s Foreign Ministry including Ya’akov Revah, ambassador designate to Belgium, who will be leaving for his new posting this week.

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Revah, who is also non-resident ambassador-designate to Luxembourg, was previously deputy director-general of the Africa division of the Foreign Ministry.

Leterme said that in the course of his visit, he plans to put special emphasis on bilateral relations based on strong people-to-people and economic contacts as well as regular academic and cultural exchanges.

Turning to Bar, the prime minister said that there are 5,877 Belgians registered at the Embassy, which is roughly the size of the population of a small Belgian town.

The Embassy, he noted, is strategically placed in that it is close to the Diamond Exchange which was founded by Belgian immigrants to Israel some 70 years ago. The Diamond Exchange was originally located in Tel Aviv and moved to Ramat Gan in 1968.

Many of the people associated with the Israel Diamond Exchange work in Antwerp during the week and come back to Israel for Shabbat, said Leterme.

Directly facing the lobby where the ribbon-cutting ceremony and unveiling of the plaque took place, is a huge wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling window which overlooks a broad panoramic expanse of Tel Aviv all the way to Jaffa.

Belgian Ambassador Benedicte Frankinet, aided by Bar, explained to Leterme what he was seeing and told him that on the other side of the building he could get an equally fascinating view of Ramat Gan.

Leterme then went on a tour through the serpentine corridors of the premises, admiring the spacious offices. He was particularly interested in the bomb shelter which is architecturally positioned in such a way as to still be able to provide shelter in the event of the collapse of the building.

Asked by The Jerusalem Post to comment on allegations that Belgium is funding anti- Israel activity, Leterme said that the there is no dedicated purpose on the part of the Belgian government to support anti-Israel activities.

“On the other hand,” he said, “we are monitoring very closely what is happening.” Leterme arrived on Saturday night for a 48-hour visit.

Prior to attending the official opening of the embassy, he met in Jerusalem with Opposition leader Tzipi Livni and later in the day with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon and Israeli business people before continuing on to Yad Vashem and planting a tree in an adjacent Jewish National Fund Forest.

From there he proceeded to a meeting with President Shimon Peres.

When Leterme met with Peres on Sunday night the President told him that the European Union could make a vital contribution towards bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

Peres said it would be a shame if a unilateral declaration by the United Nations of its recognition of a Palestinian state, would bring the two sides in the conflict to a dead end situation.

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