President Reuven Rivlin
received the credentials of four new ambassadors on Monday
, and while he was happy to welcome all of them, his enthusiasm over the presence of Italian Ambassador Gianluigi Benedetti was almost boundless.
The reason: Benedetti, who is also an academic, initiated the translation of the Talmud from Aramaic into Italian, thereby adding new emphasis to the 2,000-year relationship between Jerusalem and Rome and proving the UNESCO resolution denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem was “ridiculous” and “based on ignorance.”
The other ambassadors were Charlotte Slente of Denmark, Emanuele Giaufret of the European Union and Enoch Pear Duchi of Nigeria.
Israel is a completely different experience for Slente, who has spent much of her impressive diplomatic career in South America.
For Giaufret, his posting to Israel is almost a homecoming. He was previously a senior member of the European Union delegation in Tel Aviv between 2003 and 2007. During that time, he married and the oldest of his three sons – who was born here – had a fine time upstaging his father as he spoke to Rivlin.
Duchi, his wife and the members of his embassy all arrived in Nigerian traditional dress.
While it is not unusual for several ambassadors to present credentials on the same date and for one of them to bring his or her children – this was the first time anyone could remember when every ambassador was accompanied by their spouse and children. Slente also brought her parents.
Rivlin spoke with each ambassador, underscoring: the dangers Iran poses to the region, to the Mediterranean and to the world; Israel’s appreciation of the support it receives from its friends in public forums; the existing cooperation in fighting terrorism; and the need to take such cooperation to the next level, especially with regard to cyber and security.
He also repeated what he said in his inaugural presidential address in the Knesset and has stated many times since: “Israelis and Palestinians are not doomed to live together; they are destined to live together.”
Rivlin was critical of those who call for separation between Israelis and Palestinians, saying he wants peace with open borders, “because we are all the children of Abraham.”
What he repeated several times Monday is something that he – a seventh generation Jerusalemite – could never have experienced, but which nearly everyone who immigrated to Israel after encountering antisemitism has: “Why don’t you go back to your own country – to Palestine?”
Words to that effect were said to Jews when they were thrown out of other countries, said Rivlin, who emphasized: “We have returned home. We have nowhere else to go.”
He also repeated that disagreements between friends are legitimate and, when friends disagree, they have the right to criticize but not to boycott.
Rivlin also urged the free world to look more closely at what Iran is doing in Yemen.
When speaking to Slente, Rivlin noted what Denmark did for its Jews during the Holocaust. Slente was obviously touched by his remarks and said that she was greatly impressed by how much emphasis Israelis put on this proud chapter in Denmark’s history. She confessed to learning more on the subject only after taking up her current role.
The 75th anniversary of the Danish rescue of Jews will be commemorated next year, she said, and plans are already underway about the nature of that commemoration.
When speaking to Duchi, Rivlin stressed the importance of Africa to Israel, saying, “Because Africa is the future.” Duchi did not mention the nearly two decades when diplomatic relations between the two countries did not exist, after Nigeria severed them in 1973. But he did note that they had been reestablished in 1992 and a Nigerian Embassy was opened in Israel in 1993.
Rivlin sought Nigeria’s help in securing observer status for Israel in the African Union.
All four ambassadors were united in pledging enhanced relations, especially in areas of innovation. There was a general consensus that an unfathomable amount of untapped potential on bilateral and multilateral platforms of cooperation could make the world a better place.