Bad weather plays havoc with protocol as Rivlin welcomes ambassadors

Rivlin welcomed four new ambassadors to the Presdent Residence Thursday, but lashing rain meant normal service had to be put on hold.

President Rivlin with the Ambassador of Benin, Evelyne Togbe-Olory, January 9, 2020.  (photo credit: KOBY GIDEON/GPO)
President Rivlin with the Ambassador of Benin, Evelyne Togbe-Olory, January 9, 2020.
(photo credit: KOBY GIDEON/GPO)
Inclement weather prompted a change of protocol at the President's Residence on Thursday when four new ambassadors – two of them non-resident – presented credentials.
The four were Thailand's Pannabha Chandraramya, who was formerly her country's Consul General in Germany; El Salvador's Hector Enrique Celarie Landaverde, who was previously Charge d'Affaires at the Embassy of El Salvador in Herzliya Pituah which for some time was without an ambassador; Benin's Evelyne Togbe-Olory who came from Rome where she is resident ambassador. 
Gambia's Francis Blain was the fourth. A veteran diplomat, he joined his country's civil service in 1970, retiring in 2005, but was called back in May 2018 and asked to take up the post of Gambia's High Commissioner in London. He was subsequently appointed to simultaneously serve as non-resident ambassador to Israel. He was somewhat more formally attired when he presented his credentials to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Among his past positions is that of Gambia's permanent representative to the United Nations.
Ordinarily, when new ambassadors bring their letters of credence to President Rivlin, there is a military honor guard standing in the grounds and a police or army band near the entrance to the main hall. As the new ambassador enters the grounds with Meron Reuben, the Chief of Protocol at Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the band plays the National Anthem of the ambassador's country while the ambassador and his entourage stand to attention.
He or she then walks past the honor guard, bows midway and continues into the building where Rivlin is waiting in the main hall with senior members of his staff and MFA representatives who are deputy directors general of the region of the ambassador's country. The ambassador after being introduced to the president by Reuben, then presents his or her letter of credence and the letter of recall of his or her predecessor. After that the ambassador meets the people standing with Rivlin and before introducing senior embassy staff and immediate family members one by one by one to the president.
The party then troops into a smaller reception room for a tête-à-tête between Rivlin and the ambassador. They drink a toast and return the main hall where Rivlin watches while the ambassador signs the guest book. If it's the ambassador of a major power, Rivlin accompanies the ambassador to the door where everyone stands for attention for Hatikva, otherwise Rivlin goes back into his office and the ambassador with embassy personnel and MFA representatives walk down towards the gate where official cars are waiting.
After the last ambassador has departed Rivlin goes out to thank the honor guard and to tell them something about the diplomats whom they had honored. Usually there are four or five new ambassadors in the one morning, each of them presenting credentials at half hour intervals.
This time, because of the rain, both the honor guard and the police band were in the main hall. Rivlin waited with senior staff and MFA representatives in the small reception room, but they were not standing behind him, they were seated along two adjoining sofas, and the people accompanying the ambassadors sat opposite them on identical sofas.
As the ambassadors entered the building the police band played both anthems instead of one at the beginning and one at the end. The ambassador accompanied by Reuben entered the small reception room and in somewhat cramped conditions, presented the letters of credence and recall. After that, each ambassador and the president had a brief chat, then raised a toast and circled the room performing introductions.
They then went into the main hall, the ambassadors each signed the guest book, and Rivlin walked them to the doorway where their cars were parked beneath the pergola.
Because the countries of all four ambassadors have established diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority, which they recognize as the State of Palestine, Rivlin found it necessary to explain that when the Jews returned after two thousand years to their ancestral homeland it was not with the intention of displacing the Arabs, but with re-establishing their own sovereignty. That is why when Uganda was proposed as a possible alternative for Jewish resettlement, it was rejected, said Rivlin.
He reiterated his belief that it is possible for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in harmony, and said that when his family first came to Jerusalem in 1809 they were welcomed and treated well by their Arab neighbors. It was only after the establishment of the State of Israel that relations began to deteriorate.
Though not exactly thrilled that so many countries have recognized and established diplomatic ties with the State of Palestine, Rivlin acknowledged that facts are facts, and implied that just as he recognizes the presence of the Palestinians, they have to recognize the presence of Israel, and this can only be achieved when the two sides learn to have confidence in each other.
Referring briefly to the upcoming Forum on Remembering the Holocaust and Fighting Antisemitism, Rivlin yet again repeated one of his favorite mantras: that the State of Israel was not established as compensation for the Holocaust.
During his conversation with the ambassador of El Salvador, Rivlin reminded him that El Salvador had been the last embassy to leave Jerusalem.
However, there is very little chance that El Salvador will return to the capital unless there is a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. El Salvador hosts the second largest Palestinian diaspora in the world after Honduras, and its population includes close to 100,000 citizens of Palestinian origin, including the President Nayib Bukele whose grandparents came from Bethlehem and Jerusalem respectively.
Bukele is a former mayor of San Salvador, in which capacity he came in 2018 to the Jerusalem Conference of Mayors and was photographed at the Western Wall.