Brief though it was, the state visit to Cyprus this week by President Reuven Rivlin received extensive coverage in the Cypriot media. It was also another feather in the cap of Thessalia Salina Shambos, the ambassador of Cyprus to Israel, who during the period of her tenure since August 2015, has accompanied the visits of President Nicos Anastasiades to Israel, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Cyprus. There are countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations that have not been visited by either the president or the prime minister. Likewise, Israel has not been visited by the leaders of some of those countries.
But Shambos is an extremely diligent ambassador who, despite a very busy schedule, manages to combine her job with those of wife, and mother to two young boys, and incidentally loses none of her femininity. She has been known to walk on the most arduous of paths in her stiletto high-heeled shoes, part of her haute couture wardrobe. Her impressions of Rivlin’s visit to Cyprus were positive. She described Rivlin as “very people-friendly.” At the state luncheon, Rivlin went around the tables to meet all the invitees, who included all the ministers who had been to Israel, doctors who had trained in Israel and had sent patients to Israel, academics, business people, innovators, and of course, Chabad Rabbi Arie Zeev Raskin.
Shambos also noted that kosher Cypriot white wine, called Lampouris, was served. During the luncheon toasts, Anastasiades thanked Israel for its immediate fire-fighting assistance “that proves our consistent solidarity in times of need.” He also talked of the ultimate duty to eradicate the evil of antisemitism, and reiterated the continuous strong commitment of Cyprus to that aim. He also emphasized that any rhetoric against the existence of Israel, or attempted attack against it, is absolutely unacceptable and must be condemned.
At the British military hospital where so many babies of interned Holocaust survivors were born, Rivlin met Christakis Papavassiliou, the son of the late Prodromos Christou Papavassiliou, and told him that Israel will never forget how his father helped Jewish Holocaust survivors migrate to Israel, and the many services he had rendered to Israel for the rest of his life. Last year, a square on the Haifa sea shore was named in Prodromos Papavassiliou’s memory.
■ ISRAEL’S MASTER diplomat, the late Abba Eban, used to say the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Instead of waiting for the outcome of this week’s US-sponsored Warsaw Conference, both Hanan Ashrawi and Saeb Erekat, each acting on behalf of the PLO Executive Committee, did their best to undermine the conference before it got underway. Ashrawi issued a statement denouncing the conference, and Erekat sent letters to diplomats expressing similar sentiments.
Ashrawi dismissed the conference as being the embodiment of “the irresponsible power politics that the current US administration is attempting to impose on the international community.” She accused the US administration of “unilateralism, coercion and hostility that will entrench conflicts rather than resolve them.”
■ LABOR PARTY chairman Avi Gabbay is in a quandary. After getting approval for two reserved slots on the Knesset list, he has been unable to come up with a personality who has significant voter appeal. And there is not much time left in which to finalize the list. Meanwhile, those candidates who hit the first 10 slots on the list are getting intensely anxious, not knowing whether they will retain their positions or be pushed further back if Gabbay succeeds in finding a military hero or some other widely respected personality. Of course, the ideal solution would be for him and MK Eitan Cabel to put their respective egos on the back burner and think of what is best for the party. On election night, Shelly Yacimovich, in an interview on Reshet Bet, said she was sorry about what had befallen Cabel, adding that she would do her best to persuade Gabbay to bring Cabel forward into a realistic slot. Several political reporters also regretted what happened to Cabel, saying he was an excellent parliamentarian who, when pursuing an issue, stayed with it until the matter was resolved.
Veteran Labor Party members remember the hostility that existed between Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Nonetheless, the two worked together for the good of the party, and what they believed to be the good of the country. Gabbay has already expressed a willingness to forego the reserved slots. If he and Cabel were to have a public sulha (reconciliation), chances are that it would augur well for the election results.
■ ISRAEL’S MULTI-PARTY political system is confusing to many new immigrants who don’t understand how a government coalition can function when it is comprised of so many different parties with different platforms. Jerusalem Post political correspondent and analyst Gil Hoffman will shed a little light on the subject on Tuesday, February 19, at 1 p.m., when he addresses Na’amat’s Sophie Udin Club at Beit Hahavera in Jerusalem’s Talbiyeh neighborhood.
Not all the parties running in April’s Knesset elections have given the public a clear picture of where they stand on crucial issues, and the policies they intend to pursue, which only adds to the general election confusion. Whether this will change by Monday, February 18, remains to be seen. That’s when another political journalist, television personality Rina Matzliach, will be the moderator at a 4.30 p.m. event at the Israel Securities Exchange in Tel Aviv, hosted by Israel Advanced Technology Industries. Organizers say this will be where prospective voters find out what each party stands for. This one is for Hebrew speakers only, but for those who want to hear from an actual contender for a Knesset seat whose mother tongue is English, former Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, who is number three on the New Right Party list will be speaking at the home of Dorraine and Barry Weiss in Abu Tor, Jerusalem, on Sunday, February 24.
■ CANADIAN AMBASSADOR Deborah Lyons this week hosted a mission of 34 Canadians and their Israeli counterparts for a panel discussion on the topic of inclusion. The Canadian Inclusion Mission is in Israel to look at inclusion and accessibility, with specific focus on the role of technology and advocacy. Mission members include disability advocates and experts, as well as three Members of Canada’s Parliament, Pam Damoff (L, Oakville North-Burlington, ON), Bryan May (L, Cambridge, ON), and John Barlow (C, Foothills, AB).
This is the first mission of its kind to come from Canada to Israel. One of the reasons it is here is because Israel has a reputation as a world leader in technology and support services for people with various disabilities. Not all of Israel’s technological innovations that are designed to make life easier for the disabled are available in Canada. The mission will see some of the more advanced technological solutions which enable people with disabilities to function with greater self-reliance. The meetings with Israeli counterparts will be yet another means of enhancing relations between Canada and Israel.
■ THERE’S BEEN a changing of the guard in the US board of directors of the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL). The new chairman is Eric J. Gertler, and the president is Jonathan Barsade.
Gertler currently serves as chairman of US News & World Report, is CEO of Ulysses Ventures, and is a trustee of the Zuckerman Family Foundation, which has offices in Tel Aviv and New York. Barsade’s involvement with the AIFL has come full circle. He is an alumnus of the 1977 inaugural Youth Ambassador Student Exchange (YASE). He is also an Israeli and US attorney, and a serial entrepreneur, having founded several successful start-ups, most recently founding and serving as CEO of the Philadelphia-based Exactor, Inc., a provider of sales tax compliance services that was recently acquired by Intuit, Inc.
One of the highlights of the meeting presided over by AIFL vice president, board member and former New York attorney-general Robert Abrams, was the appointment of Kenneth J. Bialkin, a veteran American Jewish community leader who is a former long-time chairman of the AIFL, and at this meeting was appointed honorary chairman. Bialkin vowed to continue to support the League in all its endeavors, and commended the vision of the organization’s new leaders, including the new executive director Wayne L. Firestone, whose experience includes living, studying and working in Israel. Firestone has held leadership positions at Hillel International, the Israel on Campus Coalition, the Genesis Prize Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.
Gertler said he was humbled to follow in Bialkin’s footsteps. Bialkin leaves an extraordinary and inspirational legacy of leadership and commitment. Former Israel ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman, who chairs the Israel board of the AIFL, joined in the salutes to Bialkin, adding that he looked forward to working with the new US board.
■ SEEN AT Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem this week was Likud MK Oren Hazan. He was not there to solve the strike crisis or to nurse his wounds from missing out on a seat in the upcoming Knesset elections, but to celebrate the birth of his second child, a boy. As usual, he posed for selfies with anyone and everyone, including with his wife, Rinat Kotkovsky Hazan, and their baby – which he released on social media – and another with Barbara Goldstein, deputy director of Hadassah offices in Israel.email@example.com
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