President Reuven Rivlin (R) with Cape Verde's prime minister, Jose Correla e Silva (L), March 13th, 2019.
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Cape Verde is interested in strengthening political and diplomatic relations with Israel, the small West African nation's Prime Minister Jose Ulisses Correia e Silva told President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday.
Although he had twice visited Israel previously as mayor of Praia, his country's capital, Silva's current four-day visit, accompanied by a delegation of ministers, is his first as prime minister.
In welcoming Silva, Rivlin recalled that it was only this past December that he had received the credentials of Cape Verde's non-resident ambassador Carlos Wahnon Veiga, after a 12-year hiatus in which Cape Verde had not appointed an ambassador to Israel.
Veiga said at the time that he would work toward establishing a permanent diplomatic mission in Israel.
Rivlin pointedly remarked to Silva that when Cape Verde eventually does open an embassy in Israel, it should be in Jerusalem.
He also asked Silva to use his good offices to enable Israel to regain observer status with the African Union.
Silva did not respond regarding the establishment of a permanent embassy in Israel, but he did say that even though Cape Verde is a small country, it does wield a lot of influence within the African Union, and that he would do his best to effect a reconciliation between the AU and Israel.
Regarding cooperation with Israel, Silva said that after visiting various Israeli facilities, he had reached the conclusion that Cape Verde was the place in which Israel's technological solutions for water management, agriculture, renewable energy and maritime security could be put to great use. Cape Verde's greatest challenge, he said, is security from the sea.
Cape Verde's ambition is to become a Start-Up Nation, he said.
The image of Israel as presented in news reports "is very different when you touch reality," said Silva.
Cape Verde has very strong relations with the European Union and the United States, he said, noting that the largest number of tourists to Cape Verde comes from Europe, but the largest Cape Verde diaspora is in the United States.
Rivlin, who recently hosted representatives of a diaspora partnership of Jews, Greeks and Greek Cypriots
, was keenly interested in the Cape Verde diaspora, given that the island's population is in the realm of only 550,000. Silva estimated that the number of people of Cape Verde origin living in the United States was approximately equal to that of those currently living Cape Verde itself.
Rivlin suggested that because Israel has special expertise in diaspora relations that Silva get in touch with Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog.
Silva had expressed good wishes to Rivlin's wife, Nechama, who is recuperating from a lung transplant. Rivlin said she is a fighter, and that between conversations with her the previous evening, he had been watching football on television.
Rivlin said that Israel was familiar with the rich history of the Jews of Cape Verde dating back to the 15th century, and thanked Silva for restoring the old Jewish cemetery on Sao Antao.
Silva presented Rivlin with a book on the history of the Jews of Cape Verde.
There is no organized Jewish community in Cape Verde today. The original Jewish settlers were refugees expelled during the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions.
Although Silva speaks fairly fluent English, he is much more comfortable with Portuguese, and so the conversation was conducted in a mix of English, Hebrew and Portuguese.
"Ronaldo is Portuguese," Rivlin said with a sigh of satisfaction as he recalled how Ronaldo had on Tuesday scored a hat-trick for Juventes in the match against Atletico Madrid. Rivlin confessed that he likes Barcelona captain Messi better, but he couldn't help but admire Ronaldo.
Then, as an afterthought, he commented that "they also speak Portuguese in Brazil." The mental association was, of course, with Pele, the classic Brazilian player who was an international football icon. Rivlin and his wife had seen him play when they were on their honeymoon, Rivlin happily reminisced.
Rivlin said that when he told his wife that he was hosting the Prime Minister of Cape Verde, her response had been that she wants to go there as soon she gets better.
Silva said that it would be a pleasure to host her.
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