Peres greets new Japanese ambassador in Hebrew

Envoys from South Korea, Myanmar, Macedonia and Paraguay present their credentials.

By
December 14, 2011 23:31
4 minute read.
Shimon Peres and new ambassador

Peres 311. (photo credit: Mark Nieman)

Notwithstanding the absence of royalty, there was a great deal of bowing in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

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 and Paraguay.

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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.

Also in attendance were members of all five embassies as well as honorary consuls-general. The event was marked by a rapid exchange of business cards.

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.

“I’m very lucky to serve in this country, where a statesman like you is president,” Kim told Peres.

Kim 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 brain research.

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.

Turning to 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 people.

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 Macedonia.

Ivanov has been to Israel twice – both times to participate in Facing Tomorrow conferences – and intends to come again this June.

The Macedonian Government opened a Holocaust Memorial Center in March of this year, Javonovski said.

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 credentials.

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 different outcome.


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