President Reuven Rivlin speaking at the Western Wall on Israel's 2019 Memorial Day .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Hostility and terror are playing too great a role in the region and fundamentalism is ruining every effort to bridge gaps, President Rivlin told Finland’s new ambassador to Israel Kirsikka Lehto-Asikainen on Thursday. Lehto-Asikainen, who is her country’s third consecutive female envoy to Israel, and a first-time ambassador, was the second of five new ambassadors who presented their credentials to Rivlin in separate ceremonies throughout the morning.
The others were Ethiopia’s Reta Alemu Nega, Peru’s Carlos Daniel Chavez-Taffur Schmidt, Greece’s Elias Eliadis and Nicaragua’s Oscar Obidio Cubas Castro, who is Nicaragua’s first ambassador to Israel in almost a decade.
Nicaragua suspended diplomatic relations in 2010 in reaction to the Israeli commando raid on the Gaza bound flotilla in which nine people were killed, and at the time reiterated its support for the Palestinian people and urged the cessation of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Relations were restored in 2017 with the inauguration of an Israel business office in Managua, where Cubas Castro is currently stationed. For the foreseeable future, he is a non-resident ambassador to Israel, but one who is very keen to strengthen ties between the two countries, he told Rivlin as he spoke with frequent references to Biblical terminology. He said that although Israel is small geographically, it is great in every other way, fulfilling the promise that God made to Abraham.
Whenever Rivlin speaks to an ambassador or foreign minister of an African country, he asks them to use their influence to have Israel’s observer status at the African Union restored. He did so again with Nega, but he also asked Lehto-Asikainen, to try to have Israel admitted to the European Union, because he said Israel is tied to both Europe and the region.
The request came in relation to Finland’s upcoming assumption of the presidency of the EU on July 1. Rivlin also thanked her for the presence of Finland’s peace-keeping forces in the region and spoke of the potential hi-tech cooperation between the two countries which have earned global reputations for their hi-tech prowess.
He also suggested that because of Finland’s close relations with the Palestinians that Finland become involved in getting both sides to understand the importance of confidence building and for each side to understand that the other is here to stay.
“Both sides have to understand that they have to build confidence and live side by side in any political arrangement,” said Rivlin.
Turning to one of his pet grievances, namely UNESCO’s denial of the connection of Israel and the Jewish People to Jerusalem, Rivlin said: “Politics should not interfere in historical facts.” As for the antisemitism and racism sweeping across Europe, Rivlin said that it affects not only Israel and the Jewish people, but all humanity.
“All of Europe should be aware of neo-fascism,” he said. “Antisemitism is something that we all have to fight together.”
He also raised this issue with Eliadis when speaking of his visit to Thessaloniki last year for the laying of the corner stone for the Thessaloniki museum. Eliadis said that Thessaloniki was not the only place in Greece where Jewish communities were almost wiped out.
Greece has enacted legislation against all forms of prejudice, he said.
Rivlin told Nega that the Jewish Ethiopian community in Israel is a bridge between their two countries, and said that he was looking forward to the visit to Israel by newly installed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The Peruvian envoy voiced his pride in the fact that his country had been among those which on November 29, 1947, had voted Israel into existence in the United Nations vote on the partition of Palestine. Nicaragua also voted in favor, as did several other Latin American countries.
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