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Diplomats, government officials, community leaders and friends joined representatives of Israel's embassy in London on Monday to commemorate the terrorist attack on former ambassador Shlomo Argov 25 years ago.
On June 3, 1982, Argov was shot by a member of the Abu Nidal group while leaving a reception at the Dorchester Hotel in central London, an incident which led to Israel's invasion of Lebanon. The critically wounded ambassador survived, but was left paralyzed and required constant medical attention for the rest of his life. Argov died in February 2003.
Twenty-five years later, a commemoration took place at the Dorchester. Guests of honor included Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, a member of the government at the time of the shooting; Yoav Biran, then-Deputy Ambassador; Lord Greville Janner; Argov's son Gideon and current Ambassador Zvi Heifetz.
"Shlomo Argov was motivated by strong beliefs, for him diplomacy was a mission not an occupation," Biran said in tribute.
Heifetz said the shooting changed for ever the lives of Israeli ambassadors in Western countries. He said that security for diplomats was the unfortunate legacy of that night.
"Before the attack, our diplomats had felt safe, we were among friends in countries that operate under the rule of law, but that night... taught us that terror can strike anywhere," Heifetz said.
Representing the British Government at the ceremony was Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith, who said he wanted to be at the commemoration because Argov was a "fine Israeli ambassador and highly regarded in Britain and Israel."
Sir Malcolm Rifkind was a junior minister in the Foreign Office at the time of the shooting. He said that he had met many ambassadors from around the world, but that Argov was "a giant among [them]."
"[Argov] was a symbol of what is best about diplomacy, a man of great towering strength, personal integrity, commitment to principle and representative of the finest values anyone could seek," Rifkind remembered.
Lord Janner recounted visiting his "dear friend" in the hospital immediately after the shooting. "He was the most human, decent and interesting man and it was for that that we remember him," Janner said.
Argov's son also spoke in honor of his father's memory - wearing the same watch his father had worn the night he was shot.
"He was extraordinarily vital, extraordinarily energetic, highly knowledgeable and opinionated and, more than anything, he was visible. Visible in the Jewish community, visible with the press, visible in how he spoke and where he spoke and his writings. All too visible, as it tragically turned out to be the case," Gideon said.
The younger Argov said his father would have been particularly pleased with Israel's situation today. "He would have tremendous pride in the economic development of Israel, the long-standing nature of peace between Egypt and Jordan, and how Israel was able to absorb over a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union," he said.
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