In previous years, Kazakhstan ambassadors celebrated their country’s independence day mostly in hotels. But current ambassador Doulat Kuanyshev and his charming wife, Gulmira Mamytbayeva, decided to have a real Kazakhstan feast and to hold the reception in their Herzliya Pituah residence. The embassy wives pooled their culinary resources to produce a Kazakhstan banquet.
The diplomatic community was somewhat in a bind as to whether to attend the king’s day reception hosted by Thai Ambassador Penprapa Vongkovit or to attend the Kazakhstan Independence Day. A few members went to both, while some to one or the other.
There was quite a large attendance at the Kazakhstan reception, and guests piled their plates with authentic Kazakhstan cuisine and came back for more.
Kuanyshev, speaking in English and Russian, welcomed his old friend Rytis Paulauskas, director of information and public relations at the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, who arrived in Israel for a short stay and with whom Kuanyshev has spent many hours at Hofburg’s Neuer Saal in Vienna while both were members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Permanent Council. In addition to Austria, Kuanyshev has served in France, Croatia, Slovenia, India and Sri Lanka.
Kuanyshev was also pleased to welcome a five-piece brass band from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance under the direction of Prof. Gersh Geller, who prior to making aliya was a leading member of the Kazakh State Conservatory in Almaty.
The ambassador was cautiously optimistic about finalizing the mutual visa-free travel agreement in 2018. Kazakhstan is already open to visa-free travel for Israelis, he said, and he is looking forward to the day when there will be direct flights between Kazakhstan and Israel.
The current pace of reciprocal exchanges received impetus with the visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Astana last December and his talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Netanyahu was the first Israeli prime minister to visit Kazakhstan.
Kuanyshev also noted that Israeli business enterprises are eager to work in Kazakhstan and to boost their presence in the region, which includes large adjacent markets such as China, Russia and Central Asia.
Of great significance to Israel is the fact that as of the beginning of next year, Kazakhstan will be chairing the United Nations Security Council in its capacity as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the period 2017-2018.
Kazakhstan’s priority has always been to be an objective and neutral broker and bridge builder, said Kuanyshev, adding that this explains why his country is hosting international meetings on the Syrian conflict settlement. “It is our most sincere desire that these talks will bring light at the end of the tunnel for the Syrian crisis,” he said, adding that “conflicts in the Middle East and the threat from violent extremism continue to destabilize not only the region but the wider world.” Almost two-thirds of the agenda of the Security Council is devoted to trying to bring peace to areas of conflict, he said.
Representing the government was Aliya and Integration Minister Sofa Landver, who spoke in Hebrew and Russian. She remarked on what a true friend Kazakhstan is to Israel and how much the ambassador has done to enhance bilateral relations.
■ PERUVIAN PRESIDENT and former prime minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, together with the Kurz family from Israel, has launched the largest power plant in the Amazon region. The Kurz family owns Telemenia, which invested NIS 450 million in the project. Telemenia is an international company that constructs power plants around the world and has worked extensively in Africa. The Peruvian power plant was established in cooperation with VPower of Hong Kong, which is traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange at a value of about $ 1.7 billion.
Kuczynski, in congratulating Telemenia, noted that this power plant will serve about 600,000 residents of the capital of the Amazon who were not connected to the national electricity grid. He noted the intensive efforts incurred in the complex logistics operation to build the station, which included transporting equipment through the Amazon River along 3,600 km. and building the station in accordance with the strictest environmental standards.
Telemenia CEO Avner Kurz said that the station has a capacity of 80 megawatts and the project involved a team of 200 employees, including Israelis, who were engaged in the planning, supervision and construction of the station.
Kuczynski’s parents fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and settled in Peru. His father was Jewish, the son of Polish immigrants to Germany, and his mother was Christian of Swiss-French origin. Known in Peru as PPK, Kuczynski is an economist and public administrator by profession. Before entering Peruvian politics he worked in the United States, holding positions at both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
■ LAST FRIDAY, December 1, the Slovak Embassy in Tel Aviv launched a website promoting cooperation with Israel in R&D. This website of the Slovak-Israeli Scientific and Innovation Society (SKILL) aims to further boost cooperation between scientific and academic communities in Slovakia and Israel. SKILL was initiated in March of this year in the presence of Andrej Kiska, the president of the Slovak Republic, during his state visit to Israel. The core mission of the society is to create and cultivate long-term relations between Slovak and Israeli academics, researchers and scientists. Building on this network, the purpose is to facilitate and promote study stays, visits and internships in Israel and Slovakia as well as joint Slovak-Israeli research projects.
The SKILL website will provide news on grant schemes, joint research and innovation projects. The success of the initiative is based on the enthusiasm of all the institutions involved. In addition to the Slovak Embassy in Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv University, the Israeli-Slovak Chamber of Commerce and the Slovak Academy of Science are all participants in this project. Tel Aviv University president Prof. Joseph Klafter is the honorary president of the society.
■ SPEAKING RECENTLY at Bar-Ilan University’s 16th Ambassador’s Forum, which was dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the UN partition vote, former IDF chief of staff and defense minister Moshe Ya’alon outlined his observations regarding Israel’s security challenges. Though he was not yet born on November 29, 1947, Ya’alon said his family prayed continuously using the phrase “Next year in Jerusalem.” “I don’t think they ever dreamed that just a few years later the State of Israel would actually come to be,” he said.
Since that day, he said, Israel has succeeded against all odds, but still faces many challenges. “Iranian aspiration for nuclear capability is our main security challenge. Iran is the main generator and instigator of instability in the Middle East today, and it should be challenged sooner rather than later,” said Ya’alon. “We don’t share a border with Iran. We don’t occupy Iranian land. Yet Iran feels the need to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.”
The Iranian regime, continued Ya’alon, enjoys hegemony today not just in Iran but all over the Middle East. “Hamas is supported financially only by Iran. Hezbollah wouldn’t be able to exist without the political, economic and military support it receives from Iran. Lebanon has been abducted by the Iranian regime. Any decision to attack us won’t be made in Beirut. It will be made in Tehran. They’ve tried to dominate Syria and open a front against Israel in the Golan,” he said. “So we have enough issues to challenge this regime. We must not consider them a part of the solution, as the US administration did,” he added.
Another challenge, he said, is the reluctance of the Arab world to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. “Since the dawn of Zion, no official on behalf of the Palestinians has come forward to say that the division of boundaries between the parties would bring about an end to the conflict,” said Ya’alon.
Ya’alon said that Israel mustn’t allow its enemies to acquire weapons. “One of the challenges of the IDF all over the Middle East today is to intercept any arms shipments that threaten the State of Israel.”
Dr. Ziv Bohrer, who specializes in criminal law, international law and public law, also addressed the forum. In his talk, titled “Transnational Conflicts: A New Kind of War?” he questioned the historical accuracy of the accepted assumption that the attributes of transnational conflicts (border-crossing wars between non-state and state forces) are novel, and of the related premise that international humanitarian law regulation of transnational conflicts is novel. His presentation was based on a paper that was among the winners of a competition of Israel’s Junior Law Faculty Workshop. He recently gave similar presentations at Cambridge University and Oxford University.
In his opening remarks Bar-Ilan University president Prof. Arie Zaban, who also had not been born when the State of Israel was declared, said that he regrets not having been around to experience that moment in history. “It was one of those moments that you feel history really happening, like the Sadat visit, which I remember. But later on I discovered that we can also make history. I’m sure that we, as a university, will be part of many events in the future for the benefit of humanity, in Israel and around the world.”