Rivlin welcomes new ambassadors to Israel

In welcoming the new Lithuanian ambassador, Rivlin explained that his family roots were in Lithuania, which he had visited as Speaker of the Knesset.

President Rivlin talks at influencer conference in Tel Aviv (photo credit: KOBI RICHTER/TPS)
President Rivlin talks at influencer conference in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: KOBI RICHTER/TPS)
Five new ambassadors presented credentials to President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday.
They were Lina Antanavičienė of Lithuania, Hans Docter of the Netherlands, Lasha Zhvania of Georgia, Eric Danon of France, and Andreja Purkart Martinez of Slovenia.
In welcoming Antanavičienė, Rivlin said: "You are almost my ambassador."
He explained that his family roots were in Lithuania, which he had visited as Speaker of the Knesset. He described his meeting with the Jewish community at that time as very emotional.
His family had come to Jerusalem 210 years ago, he said, because the Vilna Gaon told them that rather than pray three times a day to return to their ancestral homeland of Jerusalem, they should actually go there.
The ambassador responded that it was emotional for her to serve in Israel, adding that she looks forward to Rivlin's visit to Lithuania next year for the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Vilna Gaon (1720-1797), considered by many to be the foremost leader of non-hasidic Jewry in and since his generation.
Rivlin also commended Lithuania for its Holocaust education program, to which the ambassador responded that it was important to remember the past but to concentrate on the future.
The president noted at his meeting with Docter that, although Israel and the Netherlands are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic ties, the relationship extends much further back.
The Netherlands was among the 33 countries that in November 1947 voted in favor of the partition of Palestine, had displayed heroism against the Nazis and had centuries earlier provided a haven for the Jews expelled from Spain. There is a long connection between Jerusalem and Amsterdam, said Rivlin.
Docter, who as Holland's former director for sustainable economic development, created opportunities in developing countries – as well as in the Palestinian Authority, in which context he had visited Israel many times. As old friends, he said, the two countries must work together on global challenges.
Zhvania, a second time ambassador to Israel, spoke fluent Hebrew as he presented his credentials, prompting Rivlin to ask whether the rest of their conversation should be in Hebrew or English.
The ambassador opted for English, even though he and his children all speak Hebrew.
It is actually his third posting to Israel: The first was in 1998 as consul, and the second time was as ambassador.
Zhvania previously presented his credentials in 2005 to then president Moshe Katsav.
Diplomatic relations between Israel and Georgia have existed for 27 years, almost since Georgia gained its independence.
Both Rivlin and Zhvania spoke of how relations between Georgia and the Jewish people go back some 2,500 years. Rivlin recalled that when he was communications minister, he and his Georgian counterpart had issued a commemorative stamp to mark that long-standing relationship.
The ambassador also made the point that while antisemitism is now rife in most parts of the world, it is virtually unknown in Georgia.
He said that his president Salome Zourabichvili would very much like to visit Israel. Rivlin replied that she would be most welcome, and promptly instructed that an official invitation be sent to her.
Rivlin visited Georgia two years ago and said that the way it had developed reminded him of the way that Israel had developed.
Israel has a very tight connection and cooperates closely with France, Rivlin told Danon, adding that the country is well aware of the part France plays in the security of Israel and the Jewish people.
On a personal level, Rivlin said that the last state visit in which he had been accompanied by his late wife, Nechama, was to France – where President Macron and his wife welcomed them warmly.
Returning to diplomatic and regional issues, Rivlin said that even though Israel has a good relationship with the Egyptian government on matters of security, after 40 years there is still no proper people-to-people relationship.
Knowing that France has considerable influence in the region, the president urged that France convey to the government of Lebanon – where Iran-sponsored Hezbollah has a crucial position – that Israel cannot allow Tehran to produce nuclear weapons that will threaten Israel's security.
Danon, whose background is in security and strategic affairs, said that his role was to improve bilateral relations, try to understand the situation more, and improve security and stability in the region.
Although this was her first time in Israel, Martinez said that she already feels at home.
It is also her first ambassadorial posting, and she is proud that she was chosen to serve her country in Israel.
There is a lot of respect in Slovenia for what Israel does, especially in the technological field, she said.
As good as relations are between the two countries, she was convinced that they would be vastly improved if Israel were to open an embassy in Ljubljana.