Grapevine: A man for all seasons

FORMER CABINET secretary Israel Maimon has been appointed the next president of Israel Bonds.

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April 5, 2016 20:55
Peres

Shimon Peres with Forbes editor Randall Lane.. (photo credit: NIV ELIS)

The event that drew hundreds to the auditorium of the Tel Aviv Museum was intended as a book launch, which indeed it was, but it was also a reunion of people who in one way or another helped to build the state and the nation. At least half of those in attendance on Sunday were octogenarians and nonagenarians whose names once graced the columns of the Israeli press. Not so long ago they were the Who’s Who of Israel. Now, many of them are part of Who Was Who. But even if the very few young people present failed to recognize them, they recognized one another, and were perfectly aware of who had contributed what to the security and economic stability of the nation.

The occasion was the launch of the 400- page book Diplomat by former IDF intelligence officer, diplomat, politician, banker and real estate developer Zalman Shoval, who has the distinction of being the only Israeli to be twice appointed ambassador to the United States. Shoval did not forget the people who had been his colleagues and friends in the different chapters of his life, and invited them to join him in looking back at the evolution of the state and their roles in that process. Many of them purchased the book, and it should be noted that the book is in Hebrew. Were it in English, it would be at least 600 pages long.

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Shoval had a long list of thank-yous, including Rami Tal, who edited the book and who had been the Yediot Aharonot correspondent when Shoval was in Washington.

Because of this, Tal had been able to jog Shoval’s memory and also to correct errors in Shoval’s recollections. Without Tal, the book would not be what it is, said Shoval.

The one person he forgot to thank – at least on stage – was moderator and Channel 10 news presenter Oshrat Kotler, who did a splendid job in integrating brief episodes from the book while introducing speakers.

There’s something very romantic when a husband, who has rubbed shoulders and palms with the international elite, pays tribute to his wife, saying that she does not get the appreciation that she deserves. That’s what happened at the tail end of the impressive launch. After several speakers had complimented him for his many talents and noble character, Shoval said that as complex as it is to be an ambassador, it is no less difficult to be an ambassador’s wife, who works just as hard but gets little if any recognition or appreciation. His wife, Kena, had stood at his side in all his endeavors, he said, and he wanted to acknowledge that publicly.

Among the many relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbors who attended the launch were Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and his wife, Chaya-Ita; and honorary president of World WIZO Raya Jaglom, who, like the Shovals, all live in Tel Aviv’s Sharett Street, which for the author of Diplomat is the most appropriate street in the city, as Moshe Sharett was Israel’s first foreign minister.

At the reception prior to the formal part of the evening, Shoval was at one end of the lobby signing books, and Jaglom at the other, receiving kisses and compliments. A spectator not realizing what was going on would have thought that it was Jaglom’s event, especially due to the attention that she was getting from the vivacious Kena Shoval. A former executive member of several important organizations and institutions, Jaglom, who will celebrate her 97th birthday on April 17, has been reluctant to leave her home since being confined to a wheelchair, but she made the effort for Shoval, and so many people were delighted to see her. Many embraced her and told her how wonderful she looked, and indeed she was as beautifully groomed as ever and dressed in a striking marine blue, silk satin pants suit.

Among others present were former foreign and defense minister Moshe Arens, who is also a former ambassador to Washington, and who came with his wife, Muriel; Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who as a lawyer participated in many bilateral and multilateral forums with Shoval, and who noted that Shoval and former US secretary of state James Baker, who started their relationship on the wrong footing but later became friends, were both born on April 28, 1930, “but I like Zalman better.”

Lau said that Shoval could now add the word “author” to his extensive curriculum vitae. Among others in the crowd were Shoval’s real estate partner Shlomo Grofman, who is the active chairman of their Faire (First American Israel Real Estate) Fund; Ziva Lahat, the widow of former long-standing mayor of Tel Aviv Shlomo Lahat; former Israel Air Force chief Eitan Ben-Eliyahu; businessman and hotelier Alfred Akirov; Raanan Gissin, former adviser to and spokesman for prime minister Ariel Sharon; Shlomo Yanai, former CEO of Teva Pharmaceuticals; prizewinning biochemist Ruth Arnon; former longterm ambassador to France Ovadia Sofer and his wife, Dorin; chairman of JPMorgan Chase International and former governor of the Bank of Israel Jacob Frenkel; renowned scientist and former president of the Weizmann Institute Prof. Michael Sela and his wife, Sara; Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s political-security division; Uri Savir, honorary president of the Peres Center for Peace and former director- general of the Foreign Ministry; Eytan Bentsur, who is also a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry; former MK Akiva Nof; and Shoval’s favorite performer, singer and actor Israel Gurion, who at 80 is as sprightly and impish as ever and literally skipped off the stage after singing a song in honor of Shoval.

Speakers included Lau, Arens, Rubinstein and Alex Mintz, head of the Institute for Policy Strategy and chairman of the Israeli Political Science Association, who lauded the book and said that it should serve as an academic textbook on contemporary diplomatic history. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was scheduled to attend but was prevented by affairs of state from doing so, sent a video in which he was warm in his praise for Shoval’s multifaceted abilities.

Although all the speakers mentioned some of Shoval’s various spheres of activity, none mentioned his talent for languages. In addition to Hebrew and English, he speaks, reads and writes French and German, and has written numerous articles in all of those languages on political, historical and economic topics.

■ FORMER CABINET secretary Israel Maimon has been appointed the next president of Israel Bonds, taking over from Israel (Izzy) Tapoohi, who is winding up a fiveyear stint and returning to Jerusalem. Maimon is due to take up his new role in October.

A lawyer by profession, with expertise in constitutional and administrative law, he served as cabinet secretary to Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, and subsequently used his organizational skills and vast range of contacts to chair the steering committee for the mammoth Israel Presidential conferences that took place during the presidency of Shimon Peres.

■ APROPOS PERES, although he was three times the average age of some 600 participants in the Forbes Under 30 Summit Conference for young entrepreneurs who gathered at the Peres Center for Peace, his eternally young spirit conquered his biological age. These days, Peres seldom makes speeches. He prefers to engage in conversation in the nature of a fireside chat. He did so with Forbes editor Randall Lane, and risked offending a potential future president of the United States. When Lane asked Peres what he thought of Donald Trump, Israel’s elder statesman replied: “I don’t think there’s much to think about him.”

Lane raised a laugh earlier when introducing Peres, telling the audience: “Many of you here started a company; he started a nation.”

■ THE ISRAEL Britain and the Commonwealth Association is gearing up for next year’s centenary celebration of the Balfour Declaration, in which it was stated that “His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

At the same time, the Australian Embassy is gearing up to celebrate the centenary of the victory of the Australian Light Horse in the Battle of Beersheba, which preceded the Balfour Declaration by two days. In fact, the text of the declaration was being drafted by the British war cabinet while the battle was going on, Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma told an IBCA gathering at his residence in Herzliya Pituah this week, adding that the implementation of the Balfour Declaration depended on the defeat of the Ottoman forces. There was so much interest in hearing what the erudite and eloquent Sharma had to say that attendance was far in excess of what was anticipated. Sharma later told this columnist that either the Australian governor-general or the prime minister would come to Israel for the Battle of Beersheba centenary, which also celebrates the long relationship between Israel and Australia. The Battle of Beersheba was central to Gen. Allenby’s Palestine campaign to break the Ottoman hold on the Middle East, said Sharma, and as such has become an enduring legacy. The dominant features of the Middle East for thousands of years have been empire and religion, he stated, and the idea of a nation state is still a relatively new concept in the Middle East, and is therefore under strain.

Israel has a strong history and tradition as a nation state. Even though statehood was interrupted, he said, strong cohesion remained among the Jewish people. Sharma also made the point that there is a disconnect between how Israelis view themselves and how Israel is viewed by the rest of the world. Sharma impressed his guests with his vast knowledge of the history and geopolitics of the region, and unhesitatingly answered a barrage of questions that had little to do with the original topic of his address. When IBCA vice chairman Sam Lewis was called upon to give the vote of thanks, Sharma wished him well on having just celebrated his 80th birthday. Lewis reminded Sharma that the word “commonwealth” is in IBCA’s title and that Australia is part but of the commonwealth, but there is a dearth of Australians and New Zealanders in IBCA’s membership, even though IBCA representatives participated in Anzac Day and Battle of Beersheba commemorations.

The cry for Australian and New Zealand immigrants to join IBCA was echoed by IBCA chairman Alex Deutsch.

■ WHILE REPUBLICANS in Israel who are not terribly keen to see Trump as the next president of the United States, but are even less keen to see Hillary Clinton in the role, are in a quandary in the event of Trump’s triumph, at the Limmud FSU Conference in New York, which drew more than 1,000 Russian-speaking Jews, Susan Stern, a longtime Clinton supporter and a prominent figure in the New York and national Jewish communities, expressed confidence that Clinton will win the election. Clinton will foster an “atmosphere of trust” between the two countries and between the White House and Israeli leadership, she declared.

If Clinton “becomes president, there may be disagreement about tactics, but there will always be a clear understanding that the United States will have Israel’s back,” said Stern.

Former MK Colette Avital, who is also a former consul-general in New York and chairs the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, said she believes that Netanyahu “would like to mend fences” with the next US administration and, “having followed Hillary’s career, I think she will do likewise. There will be less of an atmosphere of antagonism and competition.

Relations will be much more relaxed than they are now.”

■ RENOWNED PHOTOGRAPHER Aliza Auerbach, who documented the diverse demography of Israel through the lens of her camera, succumbed to cancer last week and died on March 29. Auerbach, who was born in Haifa in 1940, focused on Israel’s melting pot society not only in terms of ethnic, national and religious backgrounds and traditions, but also in their human suffering and their abilities to overcome. Thus, many of her subjects were Holocaust survivors, working women and battle-weary soldiers.

A self-taught photographer with a very keen eye, she initially began photographing Jerusalem while a student at the Hebrew University. It was not until 1972 that she became a professional photographer, and many of her haunting pictures were published in The Jerusalem Post. She also published several books, and her photographs also appeared in major publications in the US and Germany and were shown in exhibitions in Israel and abroad. A retrospective exhibition of her photography will open in September at the Ein Harod Museum of Art.

■ BRITISH AMBASSADOR David Quarrey will, on Friday, April 15, host the British Embassy’s annual Spring Fair at the ambassador’s residence in Ramat Gan, in aid of a wide range of charitable enterprises. This is a perfect opportunity to purchase Passover gifts ranging in price from NIS 5 to NIS 500 and to aid the different charities whose members and beneficiaries have created impressive, handmade jewelry, household accessories and objets d’art. The fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Advance registration is required. To register email British- [email protected] Among the participating organizations is the English Speaking Residents Association, whose acronym means help in Hebrew.

Founded in 1979 by South African immigrant Merle Guttmann, the original ESRA nucleus got together not only because they had a common language but also because the membership was made up mainly of South African expatriates who abhorred the apartheid administration under which they had grown up and decided that, in their wealth of activities, their major goal would be to aid the integration of immigrants from Ethiopia by helping them with their schooling and creating incentive programs that would encourage them to make the best use of their potential. Since then, English-speaking residents from around the world have joined ESRA, and some 800 volunteers now belong to ESRA branches all over the country, providing hands-on help in many ways to the socially deprived, to severely disabled youngsters, to people in need, and to the undereducated. At a time when large numbers of the Ethiopian community stage protest demonstrations against their mistreatment by the authorities – especially by the police – ESRA is a shining light in the darkness.

At the ESRA Spring Fair stand at the British residence, ESRA volunteers will include four of the Ethiopian students who are part of ESRA’s “Students build a neighborhood” project in Netanya. Because of its growth, ESRA has also decided to hold a national conference on Sunday, May 22, at the Kiryat Hasharon Community Center in Netanya, where so many activities on behalf of the Ethiopian community take place.

■ THAT OLD myth about the camera never lying is, to put it succinctly, a lie. It’s not just a matter of Photoshop improvements or distortions; it’s that diplomats and government ministers are so frequently photographed at social events that anyone who didn’t know better would be absolutely convinced that they spend their lives cavorting.

Yes, there is a lot of socializing, but it’s amazing how many diplomatic and political icebreakers derive from social occasions.

Sometimes, in fact very often, socializing is part of business, and one of the jobs of an ambassador is to push his country’s business, which is what US Ambassador Dan Shapiro was doing at Ben-Gurion Airport a few days ago. After hosting the United Airlines team at his residence for dinner Thursday night, Shapiro went to the airport for the launch of United’s nonstop flights from Tel Aviv to San Francisco. Takeoff was at 1 a.m. on Friday.

United is the first airline to operate nonstop flights between the two cities and the first US carrier to serve the US West Coast from Israel. The service will operate three times a week with the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (excluding June 10 to August 2 [westbound], when the service will be operated by Boeing 777-200). Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Tourism Ministry director-general Amir Halevy joined Shapiro and United’s Marcel Fuchs, vice president of Atlantic and Pacific sales, and Avi Friedman, managing director of sales for Israel, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony prior to the inaugural flight, which received a water-cannon salute. The new service will be a boon to travelers between Israel and Silicon Valley.

■ IT’S COMMON knowledge that there is little love lost between President Reuven Rivlin and Netanyahu, but now they seem to be competing as to which of them will be the first to sit down and talk with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about resuming peace process negotiations. Each of them met separately on Monday with Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaorálek and told him that he would be willing to meet with Abbas immediately and unconditionally, providing that he denounces terrorism.

The question remains as to which of the two Abbases will respond.

■ AMONG THE best known Israelis of Greek origin are Leon Recanati and Yehuda Poliker. Recanati was at the state dinner last week that Rivlin hosted for Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulo – Poliker was not. But there were quite a number of others who were either of Greek origin or who were actually born in Greece. Among them were shipping magnate Moshe Mano, whose parents came to the Land of Israel from Salonika in the early 1930s and established the shipping line of which he is president; Sabi Shabtay Hanan, who is the son of Greek Holocaust survivors from Salonika; and Reuven Emanuel, who was born in Greece after the Holocaust and brought as an infant to Israel.

Mano succeeded in having a conversation with Pavlopoulo and even had his photo taken with the two presidents, but Hanan and Emanuel thought it was inappropriate to approach the presidential table.

Hanan, who ensures that the memory of Greek Holocaust survivors and Greek Jews who perished in the Holocaust is preserved and disseminated, is in the process of launching an umbrella organization for Greek Jews, which he says is now essential because even though the Jewish community in Greece is small, there is a disproportionate number of young Jewish Greeks coming to Israel as lone soldiers, and they need a point of reference that will put them in touch with people who speak their language, eat similar food and understand their culture. Emanuel organizes Jewish heritage tours to Greece, and all such tours include visits to Holocaust memorial sites.

■ ISRAEL’S PERMANENT representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Danny Danon, was the guest of honor at a President’s Circle dinner reception hosted by AMIT last week at the 3 West Club in midtown Manhattan. Danon shared some of his UN experiences with fellow diners.

One of the more pleasant aspects of his tour of duty was the participation of AMIT student Doreen Cohen, an 11th grader at Ulpanat AMIT Anna Teich Haifa, in the UN’s Future Female Engineers project. This had filled him with great pride, he said. In acknowledging the long and deep partnership between AMIT and the State of Israel, Danon thanked AMIT’s President’s Circle members for their critical support of Israel’s children.

Danon did not leave the event empty- handed. He received a New York Yankees T-shirt with his name and the number 18 on the back from AMIT vice president Andrew Goldsmith. In Jewish tradition the number 18 stands for life. The New York Yankee currently wearing the uniform emblazoned with the number 18 is Didi Gregorius.

■ THE FOREIGN Ministry isn’t doing too well in the field of public diplomacy, and in an effort to improve Israel’s image in the world, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely this week launched a global contest for the best videos dealing with the issues that Israel is confronting.

Hotovely failed to show up last week at the annual meeting of Foreign Ministry retirees, and director-general Dore Gold arrived late because he had been ensconced in a meeting with the foreign minister, who also happens to be the prime minister. After delivering a pep talk on the ministry’s accomplishments, Gold disclosed that new developments are taking place. What that means in effect is that old diplomats like old soldiers never die – they merely fade away. Retired diplomats, it seems, have not outlived their usefulness but will be asked to join Foreign Ministry think tanks composed of former ambassadors; and the various departments in which they once worked will consult with them on matters of information and advice.

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