Four new ambassadors – two resident, two non-resident – presented credentials to President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday: Chris Cannan of Australia; Pablo Mcedo of Mexico; Amara Camara of Guinea, who came in the flowing traditional robes of his country; and Talla Fall of Senegal.
Camara, a celebrated former freedom fighter, is his country’s resident ambassador to France and resides in Paris, while Fall is his country’s resident ambassador to Egypt and is posted in Cairo.
The significance that Israel places on its relations with African states was evidenced in the time Rivlin gave to his individual private meetings with Camara and Fall.
Because both are Muslim, Rivlin made a point of telling them that Israel has no war with Islam per se, but only with Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists.
Rivlin told Fall that he looked forward to the day when Senegal would have an embassy in Israel. He underscored that precisely because of the excellent relations Senegal has with Egypt, Turkey and Iran, Fall could play an important role in regional relations from where he sits in Cairo, and thereby be of assistance in changing the status quo.
Referencing the possibility of peace in the region, Rivlin said the first condition for peace was acknowledgment by Hamas of Israel’s right to exist. “It’s time that they recognized this,” he said. “If they want peace, they need to build confidence and not engage in temporary ceasefires while they work out new ways in which to engineer Israel’s destruction.”
Fall said he was happy to be in Jerusalem, which he characterized as “the city of peace and tranquility.”
He was particularly appreciative of the warm hospitality accorded to him. He may have had doubts before he came, given the lull in relations between Israel and Senegal for the first six months of this year. Senegal cosponsored an anti-settlement resolution at the UN Security Council in December 2016. As a result, Israel froze all aid to Senegal and recalled her ambassador. The situation was resolved in June when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Liberia where he attended the summit of the Economic Community of Western African States and met with Senegal’s President Macky Sall.
Fall credited Israel with having been the fourth country to recognize Senegal following its independence in April 1960. He noted that Israel had sent a large delegation headed by Yitzhak Rabin to the 1961 Independence Day celebrations.
Fall said he had come to Israel as a “true friend” because as a boy he had admired Abba Eban and Golda Meir.
Guinea severed diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967 and they were not renewed until July 2016. Camara said that was too long a hiatus and that he regretted the lapse, during which each country could have learned so much from the other.
Relating to the Greek national debt, which is currently in excess of 300 million Euros, Camara said that if a sum of this magnitude would be given to Guinea, “you have no idea what we could do with it.”
This is not the first time that Camara has been in Israel. In 2003 he was in Ramallah, but confessed that he spent most of his visit in Jerusalem. “Here, I saw the meaning of solidarity,” he said.
He was optimistic that Guinea and Israel can make up for lost opportunities and build a solid relationship and pledged cooperation at all levels.
Camara said he was familiar with Rivlin’s quest for equal rights and opportunities for all citizens of Israel, adding that equality was something for which he had striven in his own country.
Cannan was the first ambassador to present credentials to Rivlin, who welcomed him as an ambassador of a country friendly to Israel. Rivlin said he knew that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was doing a lot to enhance the relationship between the two countries.
Rivlin also mentioned the upcoming commemoration at the end of October of the one hundredth anniversary of the battle of Beersheba. He acknowledged the extent to which Australian soldiers contributed to the stunning victory that gave the Jewish population cause to think there was hope for the establishment of a Jewish state.
Cannan confirmed that there has been “a long and positive relationship” between the two countries, particularly this year, with Netanyahu’s visit to Australia in February.
There has also been a long defense and military relationship, he said, noting that Australian Multinational Force and Observers personnel are fighting terrorism on Israel’s borders.
The relationship has now developed a new dimension by way of innovation, Cannan said.
Rivlin thanked Cannan for Australia’s support at the United Nations, but neglected to mention that this is the 70th anniversary year of the UN Resolution on the partition of Palestine, in which Australia played a pivotal role.
Rivlin had several points of discussion with Mexican ambassador Pablo Mcedo, including the anticipated visit to Israel by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Netanyahu’s trip to Mexico next month. Rivlin also spoke of the sale by Kibbutz Hatzerim of 80% of its Netafim drip irrigation company to Mexichem for $1.5 billion. He mentioned having been to Mexico several times, both as minister of communications and as a member of Knesset. But his most memorable visit had been in 1986 for the FIFA World Cup that had initially been scheduled for Colombia, but for economic reasons had been moved to Mexico.
Rivlin was aware that after the Second World War, Mexico admitted a large number of Holocaust survivors and since then, every government of Mexico has had good relations with the Jewish community.
Mcedo said that Mexico’s friendship with Israel was “very solid and unwavering” and that the Jewish community was vibrant and plays a major role in Mexico’s economy and in other sectors.
Being posted to Israel was one of the highlights of his diplomatic career, said Mcedo, adding that he has already found friends here.
Rivlin related a conversation that he had with Nieto, and said that he appreciated Mexico’s willingness to listen to what Israel has to say.
Mcedo assured him that “Mexico will continue to listen and cooperate in the multilateral field.”