In a symbolic gesture of continuity amid sweeping change in the region, the new
ambassadors of Jordan and Egypt presented their credentials to President Shimon
Peres on Wednesday.
“I came with a message of peace, and I came to
confirm that we are working for mutual trust and transparency, and we are
committed to all the agreements we signed with Israel,” Egypt’s new envoy Atef
Salem told Peres.
Salem, a former consul-general at the Egyptian
consulate in Eilat, replaces Yasser Rada, Egypt’s previous ambassador whose
tenure expired in July.
His words came a day after Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu told EU ambassadors stationed here that any changes in the
Israel- Egypt peace treaty would endanger the entire peace agreement and hurt
Israel’s ability to reach other peace accords, since its trust in the adherence
to such treaties would be eroded.
“We have to go forward to a peaceful
future,” Salem said. “Egypt is eager to preserve the idea of a civilian moderate
state, and is upgrading its economic, cultural, educational and medical
Jordan’s new envoy Walid Khalid Abdullah Obeidat – reportedly
disowned by his tribe for taking up the post in Tel Aviv – was appointed earlier
this month after a period of two years in which the Jordanian embassy was
without an ambassador.
Obeidat told Peres that Amman’s foremost foreign
policy priority “still remains the peace process, and achieving peace between
all neighboring countries – including the establishment of an independent,
sovereign Palestinian state living side by side with the State of Israel and
forming a region that is economically viable.”
The Foreign Ministry
issued a statement after the ceremony saying that beyond the symbolism, “the
accreditation of the new ambassadors represents an important tier in Israel’s
relationship with Egypt and Jordan.
Their inauguration will enhance
bilateral relations and will help to develop cooperation for peace and economic
prosperity, for the mutual benefit of all parties.
The regular relations
between the countries will continue to make an essential contribution to
regional stability and to the promotion of peace in the Middle East.”
separate meetings with the two ambassadors, Peres expressed appreciation to each
for the roles played by their countries in facilitating the peace
He said he was pleased with Salem’s appointment because his
previous experience in Eilat had enabled him to take up his new position not
only with the knowledge of Egyptian-Israeli relations, but also of the Israeli-
Peres said he believed negotiations with the
Palestinians could be resumed “quite early.” In welcoming Obeidat, the president
noted Jordan’s goodwill in accepting refugees first from Kuwait and now from
Syria, and also in allowing half a million Egyptians to work in
Looking back at Jordan’s relations with Israel prior to the
signing of the 1994 peace accord, Peres said: “Even without peace, neither of us
was belligerent or inconsiderate, and both of us had to face difficult
In addition to Salem and Obeidat, four other ambassadors
presented their letters of credence to Peres: Jean Baptiste Gomis, the
ambassador of Cote D’Ivoire; Francesco Maria Talo, the ambassador of Italy;
Simon Pullicino, the ambassador of Malta; and Armen Melkonian, the non-resident
ambassador of Armenia who is based in Cairo.
The Holocaust and the
Armenian genocide were raised during Peres’s meeting with Melkonian, though no
mention was made of Turkey.
The Armenian ambassador said that he hoped
the day would come when his country would open an embassy in Israel, and that he
could serve there instead of having to do so from a distance.