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
Revah, who is also non-resident ambassador-designate to Luxembourg,
was previously deputy director-general of the Africa division of the Foreign
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
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
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
“On the other hand,” he said, “we are monitoring very closely
what is happening.” Leterme arrived on Saturday night for a 48-hour
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
From there he proceeded to a meeting with President Shimon
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