President Reuven Rivlin with 26 present and future Israel ambassador to Latin America .
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday voiced warm appreciation for the work being carried out by Israel’s ambassadors to Latin American countries.
Rivlin told a group of 26 present and future ambassadors to South American countries: “What you do is important and often extraordinary and does not receive sufficient recognition. You often work under the most difficult of circumstances and people in Israel do not understand what an exemplary job you are doing.”
As someone who had traveled extensively throughout Latin America in his various capacities as minister, speaker of the Knesset, and member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Rivlin noted that he had been in a position to witness the challenges confronted by Israeli diplomats. He declared his admiration and gratitude for their ability to convey Israel’s position in places where attitudes towards Israel are ambivalent and often hostile.
Rivlin’s remarks followed those of Modi Ephraim, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ephraim – until recently Israel’s ambassador to Peru, and before that a political adviser to a previous president of Israel – introduced Rivlin to the ambassadors individually and told him that, in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, the ambassadors are working hard in an attempt to improve relations between Israel and the countries in which they are stationed.
There is a lot of pro-Palestinian feeling and anti-Semitism is on the rise, said Ephraim. Nonetheless, he said there are also positive aspects to the various bilateral relationships, noting a general upswing in economic relations. In addition, a year ago Israel was given observer status to the Pacific Alliance, a Latin American trade bloc comprising Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. This was in no small measure due to the efforts of Israeli diplomacy.
Israel’s relations with most Latin American countries were initially based on cooperative ventures in agriculture and security, said Ephraim, but now the scope has broadened, with greater emphasis on economic cooperation.
He instanced Brazil as an important country in both the economic and political contexts, adding that everything that happens in the Middle East is reflected in Latin America.
Rivlin recalled that when he was an MK it had always been difficult to find people willing to travel to far-flung parts of Latin America that no one had ever heard of.
He had always volunteered to go to such places, because he thought it important to explore the unfamiliar and to forge fresh ties for Israel, he said.
Rivlin also focused on the challenges that Israeli diplomats must meet when trying to overcome accusations of colonialism and racism in attempts by Israel’s enemies to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. He lamented the fact that it is still difficult to get the world to understand that Israel is not the aggressor, but is fighting terrorism.