The last traces of Yugoslavia in Israel were laid to rest on Thursday when Serbian Ambassador Miodrag Isakov presented his credentials to President Moshe Katsav.
Isakov's predecessor, Krinka Vidakovic-Petrov, had been the ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro and concluded her tour of duty just before the May referendum in which 55.5 percent of Montenegrins voted for separation from Serbia and the creation of an independent state. The two republics maintained their federated image while participating in the soccer World Cup in Germany, but in all other respects have ceased to be united.
Vidakovic-Petrov's predecessor, Mirko Stefanovic, spent four and a half years in Israel as the ambassador of Yugoslavia.
Isakov plunged into activity almost immediately after his arrival, and last week he was at Yad Vashem to address the opening session of a discussion on the Serbian part of the Holocaust - which is relatively undocumented.
A former journalist and popular television commentator, Isakov was ousted from his job for his searing criticisms of then-president of Serbia Slobodan Milosovic. Urged to enter politics, Isakov served two terms in parliament and then was deputy premier of Serbia and leader of the Vojwodina Reformists.
Katsav noted the honorable way that Serbia treated its Jews during the Holocaust and sent his warmest regards to President Boris Tadic.
The other ambassadors who presented their credentials Thursday were: South Korean Ambassador Kak Soo Shin, a lawyer by training and a member of his country's diplomatic corps since 1977, most recently as deputy permanent representative at the Korean mission to the United Nations; Chilean Ambassador Irene Faivovich Bronfman, who has been a career diplomat since 1990 and highly involved in policy making; Igor Leshchenya, the ambassador from Belarus, who fills a position that has been vacant for more than a year; and Polish Ambassador Agnieska Magdziak-Miszewska, a career diplomat with a background in journalism and theater. An expert on Polish-Jewish relations, Magdziak-Miszewska was until recently her country's consul-general in New York.
Katsav discussed the latest Middle East developments and bilateral relations with all five envoys.
In his discussions with Kak, Katsav was keen to know what progress had been made in reconciliation efforts between South and North Korea. He was also eager to boost the already excellent economic relationships between South Korea and Israel. Kak said that while Israel specialized in software and creativity, Korea's strength lay in production and marketing. He was certain cooperation would be beneficial to both countries.
Katsav told Bronfman, who like her predecessor, Sally Bendersky, is both female and Jewish, that he had sent a congratulatory letter to President Michelle Bachelet following her recent election and had received a warm letter in reply. Katsav also spoke to Bronfman of the need to expand economic relations. To this end, Israel and Chile have created a joint research-and-development fund.
Katsav, who has a particularly warm friendship with former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, asked the Polish ambassador to convey his best wishes and said he was looking forward to the visit of President Lech Kaczynski, scheduled for September.
Kaczynski visited Israel in March 2005, when he was mayor of Warsaw. Katsav voiced appreciation for the strong stand that Kaczynski has taken on anti-Semitism, which he said was in line with the special relationship that exists between Israel and Poland. He also noted the strength of both the political and the economic ties between the two countries. Israeli investment in Poland is in excess of $2 billion.
The next few weeks will be extremely busy for Katsav on the diplomatic front. He is due to receive the letters of credence of another four ambassadors, including that of Apostolic Nuncio Antonio Franco on Monday, and has similar events scheduled for July 3 and 10. At the end of July, Katsav is due to pay state visits to Brazil and Argentina.