Grapevine: A diplomatic tweet

A tweet this week by US Ambassador Dan Shapiro read: “Many thanks to Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde and his team for inviting me to speak at the Jerusalem Post’s inaugural diplomatic conference in Herzliya.”

By
December 13, 2012 21:07
JPost Diplomatic conference

JPost Diplomatic conference 370. (photo credit: The Jerusalem Post)

A tweet this week by US Ambassador Dan Shapiro read: “Many thanks to Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde and his team for inviting me to speak at the Jerusalem Post’s inaugural diplomatic conference in Herzliya.”

Shapiro began his address as follows: “Today we celebrate 80 years of The Jerusalem Post and the critical role it plays in informing Americans and other Englishs-peaking readers around the world about events in Israel and the Middle East – through both its print edition and its engaging website. I’ve been reading The Jerusalem Post for about the last 25 of those 80 years. I remember, back in the days before the Internet and before other Israeli outlets had English editions, The Jerusalem Post was the source of news about Israel for English-speakers, and people like me, in hutz la’aretz [outside of Israel], waited eagerly for our copy of the International Edition to arrive each week and quench our thirst for detailed news from Israel. A lot has changed since then – news travels much faster, the competition is much tougher and the global newspaper industry faces many challenges. But The Jerusalem Post has adapted and continues to deliver the news as ever.

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“I’ve been fortunate to serve as ambassador to Israel for almost a year-and-a-half now – and I feel confident stating that the media environment in Israel is one of the most active and vibrant in the world. The dynamic reporting and commentary at The Jerusalem Post and at other Israeli newspapers, covering a broad and expansive spectrum of viewpoints, is a great testament to the strength and health of Israel’s thriving democracy, reflecting the tremendous diversity and energy of the Israeli people and of Israeli society and the values of free speech and an independent press.

“In Israel, and truly, anywhere in the world, an open media fosters active debate, provides investigative reporting and serves as a forum to express different points of view, from the most powerful to those marginalized in society. Journalism is not an easy field to work in. Not only can it seemingly be a lifetime of paying dues, it’s also a field undergoing tremendous change.

“Even as we celebrate innovations that make information faster and easier to share, it is a challenging time for print media, as this room knows. All the more reason that I would like to commend the journalists here today for the important role you play and for your commitment to the free exchange of ideas.

“As we’re gathered today by one of the world’s most famous newspapers, with a large number of diplomatic envoys and international colleagues, it seems appropriate here to note the importance of press freedom – and the obligation of all governments to promote freedom of the press and protect journalists. This is a value that the United States and Israel share. Around the world, there are many in the press who courageously do their work at great risk.

"Journalists are often the first to uncover corruption, to report from the front lines of a conflict or to share with the public the activities of their government. In some countries, they can face intimidation, harassment, attacks, detention, and worse.



"While we’ve seen these incidents around the world, we’ve also seen the promise that a free press holds for fostering innovative, prosperous, and stable democracies. Secretary Hillary Clinton has said: When a free media is in jeopardy, all other human rights are also threatened.; So in that spirit, let us continue to champion those who stand for media freedom – and expose those who would deny it. And let us always work toward a world where the free flow of information and ideas remains a powerful force for progress.”

■ STEVE LINDE was the moderator for the conference and, prior to introducing Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, told participants that they would be hearing from both past and present foreign ministers “with very different views.”

Liberman responded, “You don’t how big the differences are in the views between Tzipi Livni and myself.”

Actually, it was interesting to learn of the extent to which their views were similar, but Livni was not present to hear Liberman and he was not present to hear her. He left immediately after his address, and she arrived after he had gone.

Liberman described the Post as “The only objective Zionist newspaper in Israel without prejudiced views and a biased agenda.”

Livni began her address by saying that even though she and Liberman have different views about government policy, they share the same views about Israel being a Jewish democratic state.

■ FORMER AIR Force commander Ido Nehushtan presented a wide-ranging perspective of the reshaping of the Middle East, which he said is changing fundamentally, with countries, borders, societies and religions throughout the Middle East all shaking on social and economic issues. It was almost amusing to see that although Nehushtan is a product of an advanced technological era, he did not type up his address on a computer, but wrote it by hand on a yellow pad.

■ THE DIPLOMATIC community in Israel is almost like an extended family in that its members so frequently find themselves together not only several times a week but sometimes several times within a 24 hour time span. That’s what happened this week when several diplomats were among the guests at the annual Hanukka party hosted in her home in Tel Aviv by social activist Alice Krieger. Most of these diplomats came together again along with more of their colleagues the following morning at the Daniel Hotel, Herzliya Pituah for the inaugural Diplomatic Conference hosted by The Jerusalem Post. Still more showed up at lunch time at Herod’s Hotel in Tel Aviv for the Kenyan Independence Day reception hosted by Ambassador Augostino Njoroge, and in the evening many of them again came together at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv for the 21st anniversary celebration of the independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan hosted by Ambassador Bolat Nurgaliyev. In all probability, some of the diplomats also found themselves together in another venue at some time between 2.30 and 6.30 p.m.

■ DIPLOMATS HAVE been getting their fill of Jewish tradition this week at the many Hanukka parties to which they’ve been invited. But first-time visitors to Alice Krieger’s annual Hanukka party on Tuesday did not expect celebrated composer and pianist David Krivoshay to sit down at Krieger’s piano and were pleasantly surprised when he joined in with a musical accompaniment to the singing of traditional Hanukka songs by the Jewish guests.

Krieger welcomed new Ambassador Francesco Maria Talo of Italy and Belgium’s Count John Cornet d’Elzius, telling them that they would encounter lots of pressure and fairly good weather most of the time in Israel, and assured them that they would never be bored.

The party, at which diplomats mingled with Israelis and with veteran immigrants, is a tradition started by Krieger’s father who every Hanukka came with her mother from England to Israel and held a party of this kind.

Krieger continued with the tradition after her parents passed away.

An outspoken social activist whose political leanings are decidedly left of center, Krieger decided to take an example from the majority of her guests and to be more diplomatic than she is usually inclined to be. She hinted at the identities of people whom she would like to see removed from government, but refused to name names.

She expressed the hope for a miracle “for those of us who believe in peace” that maybe some light will come into the lives of people in the region and they will at last have peace.

Included among the diplomats present were Irish Ambassador Breifne O'Reilly, Thai Ambassador Jurk Boon-Long, Austrian Ambassador Franz Josef Kuglitsch, Uzbekistan Ambassador Eshonov Oybek, Serbian Ambassador Zoran Basaraba and US Deputy Chief of Mission Thomas Goldberger, as well as diplomats of lesser rank from several other countries.

■ WITH TOO much competition for attendance at evening events, Kenya’s Ambassador Augostino Njoroge decided to make the reception for the 49th anniversary of Kenya’s independence a lunch-time affair and, as previously mentioned, most of the ambassadors who had attended The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference subsequently found their way to Herod’s in Tel Aviv. Guests at national day receptions also include expatriates living in Israel and representatives of Israeli businesses and institutions that enjoy a relationship with their counterparts in the host country.

Some people attend such receptions merely to eat, arriving early so that they can attack the buffet tables. That’s what happened at the Kenyan event, where the beautiful presentations of food were almost instantly demolished as greed conquered aesthetics. At one stage, hotel staff were ordered to stand in front of the tables so as to keep the buffet closed until after the formalities.

They politely told guests that the buffet was closed but one particular boor, from Israel’s Foreign Ministry no less, refused to listen and piled his plate with various delicacies. His table manners were even worse. He obviously did not attend the ministry’s course on etiquette. Curiously, the buffets were reopened just before the ambassador delivered his address, and anyone who has read Portnoy’s Complaint can easily surmise what happened next.

There was a stampede for food.

Njoroge spoke of December 12, 1963, as being a memorable day in Kenya’s history because that was the day on which Kenya attained independence. He also paid tribute to Kenya’s great leaders in the struggle for independence, singling out Mau Mau leader Dedan Kimathi ”who did not live to taste independence” and Jomo Kenyata, who was the first prime minister and president of the Independent Republic of Kenya and is widely regarded as the father of the nation. Kenyans remain indebted to these and other leaders, said Njoroge.

“We appreciate the sacrifices made by the heroes of independence,” he declared, and then spoke of the tremendous political, social and economic progress that Kenya has made over the past 49 years. He was appreciative of Israel’s cooperation on various levels but underlined the need to resume direct flights between Tel Aviv and Nairobi, which will facilitate significant increases in bilateral trade.

Even though it seems at this stage that he will not be serving in the next government or the next Knesset, Michael Eitan, the minister for the Improvement of Government Services, represented the government at the event. He spoke of the humanitarian and emergency assistance that Israel has provided to Kenya, cooperation on water management and homeland security, and a shared interest in combating the terrorism of radical Islam backed by Iran. He noted that Israel will never forget Kenya’s assistance in the Entebbe Rescue Operation of 1976.

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