Notwithstanding the absence of royalty, there was a great deal of bowing in
Jerusalem on Wednesday.
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Three of the five new ambassadors who presented
credentials to President Shimon Peres at his official residence came from Asian
countries – South Korea, Myanmar and Japan. The other two were from Macedonia
It is customary in Asian countries to bow in
greeting. In some places, this is just a forward tilt of the head. In
others it is a slight forward leaning of the upper torso, and in still others it
is a full bow, bending the body almost in half.
All three were in
evidence at the traditional post-ceremony gathering at the King David Hotel,
where the new envoys met Knesset members, business world representatives,
government officials and colleagues from other embassies.
attendance were members of all five embassies as well as honorary
consuls-general. The event was marked by a rapid exchange of business
Korea’s Kim Il Soo and Peres discussed the president’s visit to
Korea in June 2010, which the Korean ambassador said had improved relations and
smoothed the path for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties
between Korea and Israel, occurring in 2012. He said his predecessor, Young Sam
Ma, had impressed upon him that he was going to a very important nation and must
do his best to improve cooperation.
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“I’m very lucky to serve in this
country, where a statesman like you is president,” Kim told Peres.
said he had twice visited Israel out of a sense of curiosity and love, but never
imagined he would one day be an ambassador. He observed that both Korea and
Israel are development and democracy success stories, and remarked that his
embassy is located in “Israel’s Silicon Valley,” much of which is situated in
the Herzliya Pituah industrial zone.
Peres invited Korean President Lee
Myung-bak to attend Facing Tomorrow, the fourth Israeli Presidential Conference.
It will open in Jerusalem on June 19, with a focus on life sciences, primarily
Myanmar, when it was still called Burma, was the first
Southeast Asian country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Both
countries gained independence from British rule in 1948 and their founding prime
ministers, U Nu and David Ben- Gurion, corresponded with each other and paid
state visits to each other’s countries.
Peres noted that he had visited
Burma three times, and spoke of the agricultural assistance that Israel had
provided to Burma and of how Israel had helped build up Burma’s army. Peres
spoke fondly of the famous television debate on Buddhism between U Nu and
Ben-Gurion in 1961. Israel’s founding prime minister also spent 16 days in a
Burmese Buddhist monastery during this visit.
Peres was nonplussed after
accepting the credentials of Japanese Ambassador Hideo Sato, who addressed him
in fluent, flawless Hebrew and correctly pronounced the letter “resh,” which
many Japanese find difficult. Sato first came to Israel in 1977 as a student at
Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, and subsequently joined his country’s Foreign
Ministry, which sent him to Israel on three separate postings.
Foreign Ministry representatives, Peres, who routinely conducts his diplomatic
tete-a-tetes in English, asked, “So do we do this in Hebrew or English?” The
decision was to use Hebrew.
The president noted the March 2011 earthquake
and tsunami – which resulted in almost 16,000 deaths – as an example of Japan’s
fortitude in the face of disaster. Sato thanked Israel for sending in emergency
medical teams to treat survivors.
Sato told Peres of Japan’s plans to
build a solar energy plant in Jericho that will benefit not only the
Palestinians who live there, but also Israelis and the Jordanian
Macedonia is a new player in Israel’s diplomatic circuit, having
opened its embassy in Ramat Gan in 2008. Macedonia’s new ambassador Petar
Javonovski is in Israel for the first time. Javonovski came bearing an
invitation from President Gjorge Ivanov for Peres to visit
Ivanov has been to Israel twice – both times to participate in
Facing Tomorrow conferences – and intends to come again this June.
Macedonian Government opened a Holocaust Memorial Center in March of this year,
Of the 8,000 Jews who lived in Macedonia at the outbreak
of the war, 7,500 were murdered; most were rounded up by the Germans and
deported to the death camps.
Peres and Javonovski agreed that political
relations between their countries were good. In addition to the president,
high-level Macedonian visitors to Israel have included the prime minister,
foreign minister and other senior government officials.
Paraguay has not
had a resident ambassador in Israel for some years. Ambassador Ana Marta Baiardi
flew in from Rome for a three-day visit, during which she presented her
He commented that Paraguay had stood by Israel many times
during difficult situations in international forums, and emphasized that without
the support of the Latin American countries, the crucial United Nations vote in
November 1947 that approved the creation of the State of Israel might have had a
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