Meet the new ambassadors

Most of the ambassadors will be attending the annual Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference taking place November 21 at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Israeli F16 stationed next to flags of participating nations (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Israeli F16 stationed next to flags of participating nations
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Every few years, there is customarily a turnover of heads of foreign missions in Israel. Some diplomats serve longer than three years, and some less than two, but in general that is the changeover.
Since July, 20 new ambassadors presented their letters of credence to President Reuven Rivlin, and according to Meron Reuben, the chief of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a new batch is scheduled for December, to be followed by another in February 2019.
Most of the ambassadors will be attending the annual Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference taking place November 21 at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Since several of the new ambassadors are non-resident, they may not fly in for the occasion. But given Israel’s current political climate, they may wish to hear what the government ministers have to say there.
The 20 relatively new ambassadors since July are: Colombia’s Carlos Arturo Morales; Russia’s Anatoly Victorov who previously directed the Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Armenia’s Armen Smbatyan; Dr. Alvin J. Schonfeld, the first ever ambassador to Israel of the Caribbean island of Grenada; New Zealand’s Wendy Jane Hinton; Chile’s Rodrigo Fernando Gaete; former Polish undersecretary for State Marek Magierowski, who had a distinguished career as a journalist before entering politics; Uzbekistan’s Said Rustamov; Wol Mayar Ariec, who is the second ambassador from South Sudan to serve in Israel; Eros Gasperoni, the non-resident ambassador of San Marino who is his country’s first career diplomat to be assigned to Israel; Cameroon’s Jean-Pierre Biyiti-El-Essam, who is former minister of communications; Guatemala’s Mario Adolfo Bucaro Flores, whose government followed the lead of the United States and moved its embassy to Jerusalem which has a Guatemala Street and a Guatemala School in recognition of the Latin American country’s support for the 1947 UN Partition vote; Germany’s Dr. Susanne Wasum-Raine, who worked as a trainee lawyer in Israel, but prior to coming to her present position was ambassador to Italy and before that ambassador to France; Hungary’s Levente Benko, who was previously political director in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade; Japan’s Koichi Aiboshi, who was previously director general of the consular department of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Croatia’s Vesela Mrđen Korać, who together with her husband Marko could have easily been mistaken for a pair of athletes as they towered head and shoulders above anyone else in the room; Jordan’s Ghassan Majali, who was previously the Hashemite kingdom’s envoy to Spain; the Czech Republic’s Martin Stropnicky, who managed to present his credentials just in time to be accredited for the visit last week by Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, who was preparing for the upcoming visit by Czech President Miloš Zeman; Egypt’s Khaled Azmi who was previously director of the counterterrorism unit in the Egyptian Foreign Ministry; and Mongolia’s seasoned, non-resident ambassador Bold Ravdan, who announced that his country was interested in opening an embassy in Israel.
Rivlin told Stropnicky that Jerusalem is very much like Prague, to which the spontaneous rejoinder was “no sea.”
The Czech diplomat said he never realized that he had so many friends before it was announced that he was coming to Israel. All of a sudden people whom he had met in passing at social gatherings began contacting him to say they were coming to visit. “My small and modest residence will be full of Czech mates,” he quipped. For 10 years, prior to his joining the Czech Foreign Ministry in 1990, Stropnicky worked in theater, then see-sawed between politics and diplomacy. He has been ambassador to Portugal and Italy, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defense and Minister of Culture.
The very articulate Mrđen Korać, proved that she can give as god as she gets. Rivlin who seldom misses an opportunity to inject football into the conversation, said that he wished that Israeli players would equal the prowess of those of Croatia, but then he brightened and told the ambassador that Israel had beaten Croatia in basketball to which she instantly retorted that Maccabi owed much of its success to Croatian players on the team.
Korać is one of a growing number of female ambassadors assigned to Israel. Unfortunately, close to half are non-resident. Diplomacy which was once a male enclave, occasionally aided by women’s charms, is now moving towards an equal opportunity profession in which women such as Nikki Haley at the United Nations and Federica  Mogherini at the European Union are shining examples of distaff side diplomacy.
In addition to Korać, other female ambassadors to Israel include: Bosnia -Herzegovina’s Jelena Rajacovic; Canada’s Deborah Lyons, who together with Cyprus ambassador Thessalia Salina Shambos will be panelists at the Post’s conference; Denmark’s Charlotte Slente; Ecuador’s Maria Gabriela Troya; Germany’s Susanne Wasum-Raine; Finland’s Anu Saarela; France’s Hélène Le Gal; Latvia’s Elita Gavele;  Malawi’s Agrina Musa; Malta’s Cecilia Atard Pirotta; Moldova’s Gabriele Moraru; Montenegro’s Tamara Mugos;, Nauru’s Marlene Moses, New Zealand’s Wendy Jane Hinton; Panama’s Adis Urieta; Papua New Guinea’s Winie Ana Klap; Slovenia’s Barbara Susnik; and Thailand’s Penprapa Vomkovit.
BDS notwithstanding, Israel has established full or partial diplomatic relations with some 160 countries, some of which severed ties in 1967 or 1973 but which have reestablished them. Most of the countries of the former Soviet Union and the former Soviet Bloc have diplomatic relations with Israel, as have several Asian countries such as India and China, both of which established diplomatic relations in 1992.