Five new ambassadors to Israel presented their credentials to President Reuven Rivlin on Monday, and in most cases were reminded that Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years.
Rivlin, a seventh-generation Jerusalemite, seldom misses an opportunity to remind diplomats and visiting officials that they have come to meet the president of Israel in his official residence in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel and its seat of government.
Ambassadors representing devoutly Christian countries are often reminded that they know the truth about the status of Jerusalem because it is in their Bible.
The five new ambassadors were: Hannah Ama Nyarko of Ghana, the first female resident ambassador of an African country in Israel; Choi Yong-hwan, ambassador of the Republic of Korea; Mariano A. Caucino, ambassador of the Argentine Republic; John Newton Guiliani Valenzuela, ambassador of the Dominican Republic; and Agrina Mussa, the non-resident ambassador and high commissioner of Malawi, who is also the African permanent representative to the United Nations Environment Program and UN-Habitat Human Settlements Program.
Rivlin asked Nyarko and Mussa to use their influence to gain observer status for Israel at the African Union.
The request is routinely made to African presidents, foreign ministers and diplomats – so far to no avail.
Referring to the many joint projects in which Israel and Ghana are engaged in her country, Nyarko said she wanted to strengthen the relationship even further and emphasized that Ghana has a very conducive environment for Israeli companies. Many Israeli companies already operate there, she said.
Noting that Ghana had been among the UN member states that voted last December against America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Rivlin commented that Ghana can do a lot to help Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. He voiced the hope that the good relations between Ghana and Israel would be reflected in future votes in international organizations.
RIVLIN, WHO as communications minister visited South Korea, welcomed Choi Yonghwan with great enthusiasm. This was not only because both nations are celebrating their 70th anniversaries this year – despite their individual histories stretching back for thousands of years – but because there seems to be hope that North and South Korea may settle their differences following the projected meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong-un.
“It’s a good starting point for us when the presidents of the United States and North Korea meet each other in May,” Choi said. “It’s good momentum for Korea, for Israel and for the whole world.”
Rivlin observed that it was time for everyone living in areas of conflict to talk sense.
“You are one people North and South, and we share the same land with the Palestinians,” he said. “It’s in the best interests of both sides to live together in harmony and cooperation.”
An unabashed admirer of the Republic of Korea, Rivlin said quite candidly, “People say Israel is a phenomenon. When they visit South Korea they see that there are two phenomena.” Rivlin said he was pleased that Israel and South Korea are on the verge of signing a free trade agreement that will be mutually beneficial.
“Your country is something to really write home about,” he told Choi, and added that in Israel no one over the age of three is unaware of Samsung. Hailing South Korea as “a great people and a great nation,” Rivlin declared, “We are not the only ones who can do great things in 70 years.” He even suggested that Koreans might be one of the 10 lost tribes of ancient Israel.
Choi said he had dreamed of coming to Israel since he was a child and that his dream was finally realized when he was sent to Israel as ambassador.
Rivlin thanked both Caucino and Guiliani for their countries having provided safe havens for Jews fleeing from the Nazis.
WITH REGARD to Argentina, he told Caucino that Israel would never forget the terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires on the Israel Embassy in 1992 and on the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994. “We will get to the people who committed these crimes,” Rivlin pledged, and said he was looking forward to the visit to Israel by President Mauricio Macri, whom he described as “a friend of Israel and the Jewish community.” Caucino confirmed that Macri will arrive in Israel within the next month or so, and will be followed by the Argentine soccer team on June 9. Rivlin’s eyes lit up at the latter prospect.
Rivlin was glad to meet Guiliani because the Dominican Republic – aside from offering shelter to Jews in 1938 when nearly all other countries refused to let them enter – had been one of the 33 UN member states that voted for the partition of Palestine in November 1947. He was also appreciative that the Dominican Republic had abstained in the Jerusalem status vote at the UN in December. In case the ambassador didn’t know, Rivlin told him that there was a street in Jerusalem named for the Dominican Republic.
Rivlin added that he would like President Danilo Medina to visit Israel, and if his schedule did not allow for that in the near future, then it was important for Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas to come and exchange ideas and discuss ways in which to enhance cooperation between the countries.
Guiliani said one of the things he wants to achieve is the introduction of direct flights between Israel and the Dominican Republic. Tens of thousands of his countrymen would love to come on pilgrimage to Israel, he said, but are impeded by travel difficulties. If there were direct flights, he added, they would come in droves.
Most African states severed relations with Israel during or immediately after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The only ones that didn’t were Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland.
Israel is deeply grateful for this, Rivlin told Mussa. He also voiced appreciation for Malawi’s abstention from the Jerusalem status vote at the UN and said he was hopeful that Malawi would take its cue from President Trump and establish an embassy in Jerusalem.
Mussa in turn expressed her president’s thanks for all the assistance Israel has unceasingly rendered to Malawi for more than 50 years. “We grew up knowing about Israel” she said. “We saw that assistance was not a one-time thing, but forever.”