Grapevine: Delayed escalation

A round-up of news from around Jerusalem.

US AMBASSADOR David Friedman (second right) with Latin American colleagues at a luncheon hosted by Argentine Ambassador Mariano Caucino (third left).  (photo credit: COURTESY ARGENTINE EMBASSY)
US AMBASSADOR David Friedman (second right) with Latin American colleagues at a luncheon hosted by Argentine Ambassador Mariano Caucino (third left).
It almost rained on his parade, but not quite. Kuo Boug Chang had invited so many people to join him in celebrating Taiwan’s Independence Day that he probably didn’t notice that more than a 100 people had not yet arrived.
Aside from that, he was too busy focusing on his speech. The reason for the non-arrival was an outage in the elevator system in one of the Azrieli buildings in Tel Aviv. The reception was on the 49th floor of the building and none of the stranded guests was willing to climb 49 flights of stairs.
After standing around for a while waiting in vain for the fault to be repaired, one of the guests succeeded in contacting someone from the Azrieli management, who organized passage through the VIP access of the building and use of the elevators there. The whole process of waiting, wondering and walking from one section to another took just over half an hour. All the unfortunate latecomers had actually been early and were delayed not by Tel Aviv traffic, but by Azrieli elevators.
Bowing to Chinese pressure, Israel does not have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan and government ministers never attend Taiwanese receptions. However, Knesset members do – especially Nachman Shai, who heads the Israel-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group, and earlier this year took a delegation of MKs to Taiwan to meet with President Tsai lng-wen and other dignitaries.
Shai referred to Chang as “ambassador” and thanked the embassy for arranging the trip. Technically, Chang is the head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Tel Aviv. There is no Taiwanese embassy, even though references to such have been made not only by Shai, but also by various Israeli media outlets. A quick check with the Foreign Affairs Ministry indicated that there has been no upgrade in diplomatic relations between Israel and Taiwan. Chang may very well be an ambassador in his own right, and all his staff address him as ambassador, but he cannot formally go by that title in Israel.
That of course has no bearing on trade relations. Chang underscored that trade between Israel and Taiwan is constantly on the rise, and two-way trade currently stands at $1.15 billion per annum and rising. In addition, 27 agreements and MoUs have been signed between Taiwan and Israel, and there is strong cooperation in agriculture, high tech and security. In addition, Taiwan has sister city agreements with Ra’anana and Ramat Gan.
Shai, who has been to Taiwan several times, said that he always found new faces of the country and new people to talk to.
“There is a concerted effort by the embassy to take Israelis to Taiwan to see its achievements and its beauty, but especially its democracy,” he said.
Chang likewise emphasized Taiwan’s democracy and civil liberties, and also spoke of his country’s relations with China, which happens to be Taiwan’s number one trading partner.
But politically, the situation is less rosy, and “tensions are escalating.” Taiwan, which is seeking a peaceful and harmonious relationship with China, will not compromise, he said. He was happy with the increase in two-way tourism between Israel and Taiwan, saying that people in Taiwan expect Israel to be a war zone and are pleasantly surprised to discover a country of prosperity opportunities and start-ups.
Judging by the number of people mingling at the reception, Chang has made many additional contacts for Taiwan in just over the six months in which he has been in Israel. This may also account for the reception’s change of venue to a larger banquet room than in the past. Another change was in the fact that food was not served until after the speeches, which caused people to stay after the speeches to sample the delicious offerings, some of which comprised traditional Taiwanese fare. Not to mention, it was an incentive to stay and listen to the spirited Taiwanese jazz band.
■ US AMBASSADOR David Friedman was the guest of honor at a working luncheon hosted this week by Argentine Ambassador Mariano Caucino and attended by fellow Latin American ambassadors representing Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay and Honduras. The extensive discussions focused on trilateral relations between Israel, America and each Latin American country represented at the table. Discussions also covered the current situation in the Middle East, with a strong emphasis on the development and content of US President Donald Trump’s to-be-unveiled peace plan. Caucino is among the more active of Latin American ambassadors in Israel.
■ NEXT WEEK, The Jerusalem Post Group will host a conference in Jerusalem to celebrate the 70th anniversary of one of its Hebrew language outlets – Maariv, a sister publication of The Jerusalem Post. Maariv is older by three months than the State of Israel, and younger by almost 16 years than The Jerusalem Post.
Its first edition was published on February 15, 1948. It was founded by Azriel Carlebach, a highly talented German-born journalist who had worked for and edited several European publications. He had covered some of the most important events in Europe including the rise of Nazism before moving to Tel Aviv in 1937.
He was soon employed at Yediot Aharonot, where he quickly rose through the ranks to become editor-in-chief. A dispute with the paper’s owner Yehudah Mozes, ended with Carlebach walking out and taking some of the best people on staff with him. Together they launched Maariv, which has since been through a number of editors and owners, as has The Jerusalem Post, which was founded by Gershon Agron in December 1932.
Today, both papers are under the one umbrella, albeit one is located in Jerusalem and the other in Tel Aviv. The Jerusalem Post is currently edited by Yaakov Katz and Maariv by Doron Cohen. The Jerusalem Post’s annual Diplomatic Conference is scheduled for November 21 at the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria. As always, there will be addresses by various ministers, as well as by two ambassadors – on this occasion Canadian Ambassador Deborah Lyons and Thessalia Salina Shambos, the Ambassador of Cyprus. Some of the ministers will be speaking at both the Maariv and Jerusalem Post conferences – in Hebrew at one and in English at the other.
■ FAKE NEWS has become a global scourge. Lives have been ruined, people have been made to look like criminals or fools, and even the legitimate media has fallen victim to misinformation which has been deliberately planted in the web. Within the framework of the 18th world edition of Italian Language Week, the Italian Institute of Culture in Tel Aviv will host Marcello Foa, a prize-winning journalist, professor at the University of Italian in Lugano, Switzerland, and most recently the president of RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana.) He will speak in Italian in a lecture titled, “Media Manipulation and Fake News: Is Democracy in Danger?”
Foa will discuss the techniques used by governments, international institutions and even by terrorist groups to achieve their goals through digital media, and how they thereby influence the quality and reliability of the press. The legitimate media, which is traditionally the watchdog of society, has a more responsible role than ever in remaining alert against potential manipulation, he says. The discussion will take place in the Library of the Italian Institute, 25 Hamered Street, Tel Aviv, on Tuesday, October 16, at 7.30 p.m.
■ ON THE same date, English speakers can listen to a debate on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) vs. Israel featuring Dan Diker, director of the program to counter political warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs; Gilad Kabilo, Public Affairs Director of StandWithUs, and Paula Slier, a South African television, radio and print journalist and war correspondent, who heads her own company in the Middle East called “Newshound.” She is also the Middle East bureau chief and correspondent for RT (Russia Today), and has reported while in the thick of battle from war-torn Afghanistan, Iraq, the Ukraine and Gaza.
The debate will begin at 7.30 p.m. at Beth Protea, 5 Asher Barash Street, Herzliya.
As Beth Protea is a project of South African Jewry, the evening will also include a brief report by visiting Jewish leaders from South Africa on the status of diplomatic relations between SA and Israel.
Moderator for the evening will be David Kaplan.
■ VETERAN MEDIA consultant Zvi Wilder makes a living out of cooking up strategies to promote the interests of his clients, but in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Wilder Public Relations, he prepared something of a different nature when he appeared on the Channel 10 program of Chef Moshe Segev. Segev instructed him in the preparation of sabich, which Wilder subsequently served to friends, clients and colleagues who came to celebrate with him. Segev’s workers’ restaurant is located close to Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. Among Wilder’s guests who enjoyed the famous Israeli pita sandwich were Menashe Zilka, CEO of the Kravitz supply chain, Roni Pivko, CEO of Club Hotel, Gil Gazit, CEO of Sarona, Oren Ohana, CEO of Suzuki Israel, Ran Katzman, CEO Idit, Marcello and Revital Incellini, co-owners of Franchi Real Estate, David Dahan, CEO of Kershar Israel, and media and television personality Gadi Sukenik.
■ EVEN THOUGH he no longer lives in Israel, actor, singer and film producer Mike Burstyn will be receiving a life achievement award from EMI, the Union of Israeli Performing Artists and the City of Petah Tikva on November 20. The honor is in recognition of his lifelong contribution to Israeli stage and screen. The award ceremony will take place at the Petah Tikva Center for Performing Arts.
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