Rivlin champions beleaguered Foreign Ministry

The financially beleaguered Foreign Ministry has found a champion in President Reuven Rivlin.

President Rivlin meeting Israeli heads of diplomatic missions, 10 December 2018. (photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
President Rivlin meeting Israeli heads of diplomatic missions, 10 December 2018.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
The president hosted Israeli ambassadors serving in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and thanked them for what they are doing to enhance Israel’s image in the world, giving particular credit to Mashav, the Foreign Ministry-operated Israel Agency for International Development.
Whenever he visits a developing country, said Rivlin, he sees the fruits of Mashav training programs in agriculture, water management and conservation, medicine, technology, innovation and more. The thousands of people trained in their own countries or in Israel by Mashav experts become ambassadors for Israel, said Rivlin, adding that much more should be invested in Mashav, because in Israel there is insufficient understanding of and appreciation for what it is doing.
This prompted one of the ambassadors present to complain that Mashav aside, the activities of ambassadors and embassy staff members are restricted by repeated budgetary cuts. “We just can’t go on this way,” he said.
Rivlin’s response was that the finance minister should be more aware of the intricacies in the work of the Foreign Ministry, and said that he would be happy to talk to him about the need to improve budgetary allocations.
Rivlin also related to US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria, and said that if it had been any other president he would have been subjected to severe criticism from Israel.
The US decision makes things more difficult for Israel he said, and Israel will have to determine how to cope with the new reality.
Nonetheless, Israel’s relations with the US will not be affected, said Rivlin, because Israel’s foreign policy is based on an ongoing alliance with the US. “This is a friendship and cooperation not only between governments, but people to people and democracy to democracy.”
Rivlin said that he wanted to thank the American government under all its administrations for its commitment to Israel’s security.
The bipartisan relationship with the US must be maintained, he insisted.
However, he noted that not enough has been done to maintain relations with the Democrats and the liberal parties in the US, nor with the Jews of America in all of their diversity. As Jews, “we are responsible for each other. We are one family,” Rivlin declared.
Based on its own experience as a developing country, Israel has much to give to other developing countries, said Rivlin. Israel’s success is the result of turning every challenge into an opportunity, he said. “We are experts in finding solutions.”
He stressed that when sharing its know-how Israel must do so on a partnership basis with governments and the private sector and must refrain from taking patronizing attitudes.
Developing countries want what Israel has to offer in technology and innovation, said Rivlin, but they want it to be a joint effort.
He attributed the diplomatic progress that is being made in Africa to a desire on the part of African states to share in Israel’s knowledge. “We have to be relevant to developing countries,” he commented, hinting that such relevance played a role in some of his visits abroad. He will soon be traveling to South America.
Rivlin underscored the significance of diplomatic breakthroughs in Asia and Africa and to some extent South America. Some of the breakthroughs come through religious tourism he said, citing Indonesia as an example. Even though Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Indonesia, 40,000 Muslim pilgrims came to Israel over the past year.
Rivlin also mention the upsurge in antisemitism, particularly in Europe, and stated that Israel will not tolerate antisemitism in any shape or form, even when people who engage in antisemitic speech, writing or acts express their admiration for Israel.