President Moshe Katsav took a brief respite from the silent treatment he has been giving to the media in recent days and initiated an exchange on Wednesday, just before receiving the credentials of five new ambassadors.
Although on Sunday police said they had gathered sufficient evidence to recommend indicting Katsav on charges of rape, as well as indecent acts using force, indecent acts without consent and sexual harassment, he entered the reception area with a radiant smile, and greeted the press cheerfully.
"You have cause to feel better than I do," Katsav said to the press. Asked why he was smiling, Katsav added, "I know the truth. That's the reason that I'm smiling."
After chatting briefly with Foreign Ministry personnel, Katsav, in an ironic tone, heaped praise on the media for the interest it was taking in the presentation of credentials, an event that does not usually attract the press in great numbers.
The five ambassadors who presented letters of credence were Jon Allen, Canada; James Larsen, Australia; Yoshinori Katori, Japan; Jean Michel Casa, France; and Hamish Cooper, New Zealand.
A career diplomat, Cooper is also ambassador to Turkey where he is stationed.
Allen, who is Jewish, came with his wife Clara Hirsch, who addressed Katsav in Hebrew. Allen joined Canada's Department of External Affairs in 1981 and spent much of his early career representing Canada in disputes under the Canada-US free trade agreement. He has also served in Mexico City and New Delhi, and two years prior to coming to Israel, attained the rank of assistant deputy minister.
Larsen, a lawyer by profession and a senior career officer with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, was most recently legal adviser and assistant secretary of its legal branch. Prior to that, he was counselor at the Australian Embassy in Brussels.
Katori was press secretary at Japan's Foreign Ministry, after having previously served as minister to South Korea and director-general of the Consular Affairs Bureau .
Casa, who prior to his present posting visited Israel several times, spent the past four years as ambassador to Jordan.
Some bowed as they were introduced to the president by Foreign Ministry chief of protocol Yitzhak Eldan, and when they retired to a smaller room for a private meeting, most waited for the president to lead the conversation. All the ambassadors spoke about bilateral relations and developments in the Middle East.
In his conversations with Allen and Larsen, Katsav expressed Israel's appreciation for the support and understanding of the Canadian and Australian governments during the recent war in Lebanon.
Katsav and Katori also spoke about North Korea and the potential dangers posed by its nuclear program. Katsav said he was pleased that Israel's relations with Japan were consistently growing stronger. Katori said one of the challenges he had set for himself was to boost Japanese tourism to Israel.
Katsav and Casa discussed the improvement in relations between their two countries since Katsav's state visit to France two-and-a-half years ago.
One intrepid reporter asked Casa if he didn't feel a little strange under the circumstances, referring to the allegations against Katsav. The genial Casa chose not to comment.
It is customary at the conclusion of a morning of presentations of credentials for Katsav to thank the military honor guard. While in September he waited for the journalists to disappear, this time, the president came out to meet the soldiers and express his thanks. However, Katsav did not look at the media, nor did he indicate he had heard their questions.
This was not the first time that Katsav accepted the credentials of new ambassadors since stories of his alleged improprieties came to light.
On September 4, before police made a recommendation that he be indicted, he greeted new ambassadors.