Five ambassadors present credentials to Rivlin

"Friends have a right to agree to disagree."

President Reuven Rivlin meets with the German ambassador (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin meets with the German ambassador
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Five ambassadors presented their letters of accreditation to President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday.
Both Rivlin and Jean-Pierre Biyiti-El-Essam of Cameroon formerly served as minister of communication in their respective country. Biyiti-El-Essam came to Israel in 2002 for an international conference of communications ministers while Rivlin was still minister.
Their second shared interest is football. Rivlin is an avid football fan, and congratulated Cameroon on hosting the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations, taking place June 15 to July 13, 2019. Biyiti-El-Essam invited Rivlin to Yaoundé to watch the matches.
He also said that he would recommend to leaders of his country that they should visit Israel. He said that while Cameroon is happy with what students learned at Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, he would like to see more Israelis come to teach on-site agriculture in Cameroon.
Rivlin conveyed congratulations to President Paul Biya on his reelection.
Given Rivlin’s pride in being a Jerusalemite, his conversation with Guatemalan Ambassador Mario Adolfo Bucaro Flores was not as expansive as might have been anticipated, though he certainly did acknowledge that Guatemala is one of Israel’s oldest friends, and in 1947 persuaded 13 Latin American states to vote in favor of the UN partition of Palestine. He noted both a street and school in Jerusalem are named in honor of Guatemala.
Oddly, the ambassador did not tell Rivlin that there are four places in Guatemala called Jerusalem Capital of Israel.
The ambassador brought greetings from President Jimmy Morales, and said that Guatemala has always been a friend of Israel’s “but you have also been a friend of ours.” Many Israelis after completing their army service, tour Guatemala, he said.
The Central American state is interested in launching an exchange scheme with Israel in tourism employment, he said, so that workers in the industry in both countries could learn first hand about each other’s country by working in both.
Like many diplomats stationed in Israel, the Guatemalan ambassador is studying Hebrew. One of the first three words he learned, he said is shalom. “We are constantly looking for peace in the world – especially Jerusalem.”
Rivlin gave German Ambassador Dr. Susanne Wasum-Rainer a most effusive welcome and thanked the government and people of Germany for all the help that they have given to Israel over the years. “You are really great friends,” he said. Alluding to areas of dispute between Germany and Israel, he said “Friends have a right to agree to disagree.”
If Rivlin chose to overlook the reason for all the help that Germany gives to Israel, Wassum-Rainer did not. Happy though she is to be in Israel, where she has worked and studied before, and reaffirming her personal commitment to Israel, she said that Germany was always ready for discussions with Israel and extension of the relationship, “but the memory of the past must always be part of the extension.”
Rivlin, in his youth had been amongst those who had vociferously opposed Israel entering into diplomatic relations with Germany and in 1965, had even demonstrated outside the President’s Residence when the Bundesrepublik’s first ambassador to Israel Rolf Friedmann Pauls presented his credentials. But in his conversation with the current German ambassador he spoke of “our great friend Germany” and thanked the ambassador for what the German government is doing to fight antisemitism.
With Hungarian ambassador Levente Benko, who was previously political director in Hungary’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Rivlin discussed things Jewish, saying that among the immigrants from Hungary were some of Israel’s finest journalists and humorists.
Lamenting over rising fascist ideology in Europe, Rivlin voiced Israel’s appreciation for Hungary’s stand on antisemitism, and noted that Hungary, which has one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe, today also has one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. He was also aware of the extent to which Hungary supports Israel in international forums.
Israel cannot accept people who say they admire Israel but don’t deal well with Jews, said Rivlin. “Israel is a Jewish State.”
Referencing Israel’s Nation State legislation, Benko said that Hungary and Israel were like-minded on a nation state in terms of identity.
He confirmed that there is strong Hungarian support for Israel in the international arena. “We stand up against bias and criticism of the State of Israel.”
On the subject of antisemitism, Benko  said “The Hungarian government has zero tolerance for antisemitism, and a strong responsibility in this regard.”
People of Jewish Faith in Hungary can openly practice their religion in security and safety, he said. “This is not a normal phenomenon in Europe today.”
Benko wants to take the strong political cooperation between Hungary and Israel a step further into innovation and into cooperation in other fields – for instance medicine. There are approximately 1,000 Israelis studying medicine at Hungarian universities he said, and this creates a strong bond. He also mentioned that he had met with doctors in Israel, who have no family connection with Hungary but who sent their children there to study medicine because it is on such a high level.
Rivlin had an altogether different reason for waxing enthusiastic in his conversation with Japanese ambassador Koichi Aiboshi.
Rivlin was full of praise for Japan’s role in the region. Many people try to  bring the Israel-Palestine agenda to matters that cannot be resolved without confidence building, he said. But Japan, through the agro-technological park that it built in Jericho, has brought together Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians in an example of what can be done to promote mutual understanding.
Aiboshi for his part was appreciative of Israel’s cooperation in Japan’s endeavors.