South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday named Haim Koren as ambassador to South Sudan,
signaling the importance Jerusalem attributes to its relationship with the
world’s newest state.
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Koren, a former director of the ministry’s
Political Planning Division, will for the time being be a non-resident
ambassador, flying regularly from Israel to South Sudan.
comes just a few weeks after South Sudan President Salva Kiir visited Israel for
a one-day visit. Jerusalem is keen on strengthening its ties with an arc of
eastern African countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan – which,
like Israel, are worried about Iranian penetration and radical Islamist
Koren, who has previously served in Chicago and Egypt, is an
Arabic expert who can distinguish among Sudanese dialects. He was used in this
capacity by security officials a number of times when they were trying to
determine whether infiltrators into Israel claiming to be political refugees
from Darfur were indeed from that region, or rather from other areas in the
country looking to come to Israel for economic gain.
Koren was appointed
as Israel’s ambassador to Turkmenistan earlier in the year, but failed to take
up that post after the Turkmen foreign ministry claimed he was a spy because he
spent three years as an instructor at the National Security
Turkmenistan, which borders Iran, is very jittery about Israel
using the embassy there to spy on its neighbor, and Koren was the second
consecutive ambassadorial candidate that Turkmenistan rejected. That post still
In a related development, the Foreign Ministry’s
appointment committee also named Yaakov Hadas-Handelsman as Israel’s next envoy
to Berlin, replacing Yoram Ben-Zeev. The move is somewhat unusual, since
Hadas-Handelsman took up the post as Israel’s envoy to the EU in Brussels just
six months ago.
One official said the reason Hadas-Handelsman will be
moved so quickly is because he is considered the best candidate for the Germany
position, considered one of the most important in the foreign service. Ties with
Berlin, though good overall, have been marked over the last few months by
patches of tension due to Germany’s harsh censure of Israeli construction over
the Green Line.
Ambassadors generally remain in their posts for at least
Foreign Ministry sources said Hadas-Handelsman, who went to
Brussels after serving as the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director- general for
the Middle East and the peace process, speaks German.
need approval by the cabinet, something that is generally just a formality.